The Value of Monitoring-Based Commissioning Tools for Laboratory Facilities

Chris Schmidt, B2Q Associates, Inc.
Sam Deptula, B2Q Associates, Inc.

Laboratory buildings are expensive to build, operate and maintain, they utilize extensive and complicated controls, have stringent safety standards requiring consistent and reliable controls, and typically the most energy-intense building type. Consequently, the ability to properly and continuously manage their controls can have large impact on operating costs, building safety and occupant comfort. However, due to their extensive and complicated nature, and a lack of understanding of these controls and their intended strategies, facilities engineering and maintenance staff often don't have the time, knowledge or tools to properly manage and maintain their performance.

All buildings, even the most well-designed, well-commissioned and even well-maintained, often within a few years of startup, can be operating considerably less efficient and less safe than they were setup. Typically in lab facilities only the fume hoods are tested on a semi-regular basis; meanwhile, the general lab-level ventilation rates, lab-to-support-to corridor balances, etc. are ignored and often go way out of spec without anyone knowing. This results in potentially significant safety risks, poor lab HVAC control, increased energy usage, and occupant comfort issues.

In recent years numerous companies have developed software platforms that provide what is now called monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx), continuous commissioning (CCx), or real-time energy management (RTEM). These MBCx platforms perform real-time and continuous fault detection and diagnostics, typically utilizing the existing building automation system (BAS) and data sources to pull real-time live data and perform advanced analytics to identify anomalies, deviations from normal and controls failures. These platforms often include both out-of-the-box as well as customizable algorithms to identify issues such as failed hardware, high or low airflow, under-ventilation, poor temperature control, excess runtime, etc. An MBCx tool can act as a 24/7 building manager, identifying issues as they arise, reducing safety risks, reducing potential loss, and improving overall building performance.

These MBCx platforms and their suite of software tools are valuable in many building types but can be particularly valuable and have strong economics in labs due to their high energy and operational costs, importance on safety and reliability, and often high downtime costs or damage due to lost research or equipment failure. This paper presents the types of diagnostics, analytics and configurations of MBCx platforms as well as typical findings, results, and economics, with a focus on the value and specific advantages to such tools in a laboratory facility.

Learning Objectives

  • Bring awareness to what monitoring-based commissioning is, what its general value is, and what specific value and advantages it provides in a lab facility.
  • Understand energy, performance, safety, and research impacts of lab controls, particularly failed or 'out of spec' controls.
  • Understand how such failures, deviations, and anomalies can be detected, identified, quantified, and strategies for correcting them.
  • Be able to identify candidates for MBCx software and improve the ability to understand and sell the benefits of lab controls re-commissioning.


Chris is a Senior Project Manager with B2Q Associates and is a mechanical engineer with a Masters of Science in Engineering from the University of Dayton, with a focus in commercial and industrial building energy efficiency. He has over 16 years experience working in building efficiency, HVAC mechanical and controls systems optimization, re-commissioning, and project management and he co-teaches the Association of Energy Engineers Existing Buildings Commissioning course.

Sam is a Project Manager with B2Q Associates and is a mechanical engineer with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He has over 5 years of experience working in energy efficiency, HVAC & controls systems, re-commissioning and the development of monitoring-based commissioning software and analytics.


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