Integrated Dynamic Facade Control with an Agent-based Architecture for Commercial Buildings
Dynamic façades have significant technical potential to minimize heating, cooling, and lighting energy use and peak electric demand in the perimeter zone of commercial buildings, but the performance of these systems is reliant on being able to balance complex trade-offs between solar control, daylight admission, comfort, and view over the life of the installation. As the context for controllable energy-efficiency technologies grows more complex with the increased use of intermittent renewable energy resources on the grid, it has become increasingly important to look ahead towards more advanced approaches to integrated systems control in order to achieve optimum life-cycle performance at a lower cost. This study examines the feasibility of a model predictive control system for low-cost autonomous dynamic façades. A system architecture designed around lightweight, simple agents is proposed. The architecture accommodates whole building and grid level demands through its modular, hierarchical approach. Automatically-generated models for computing window heat gains, daylight illuminance, and discomfort glare are described. The open source Modelica and JModelica software tools were used to determine the optimum state of control given inputs of window heat gains and lighting loads for a 24-hour optimization horizon. Penalty functions for glare and view/ daylight quality were implemented as constraints. The control system was tested on a low-power controller (1.4 GHz single core with 2 GB of RAM) to evaluate feasibility. The target platform is a low-cost ($35/unit) embedded controller with 1.2 GHz dual-core cpu and 1 GB of RAM. Configuration and commissioning of the curtainwall unit was designed to be largely plug and play with minimal inputs required by the manufacturer through a web-based user interface. An example application was used to demonstrate optimal control of a three-zone electrochromic window for a south-facing zone. The overall approach was deemed to be promising. Further engineering is required to enable scalable, turnkey solutions.