Optimizing commercial buildings’ thermal comfort with AI

Building occupants have remained toasty and comfortable all winter, a standard that should be maintained by building managers and owners as seasons change.

Commercial buildings spend an average of 35% of their energy costs on heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC). To address this seasonal change, a go-to solution may be to set one base temperature for the entire building. However, this will prove to be highly ineffective as varying areas will have different thermal needs. As a result, implementing a one-size-fits-all solution will send energy costs through the roof.

To put this into perspective, office buildings are typically comprised of perimeter zones which require both cooling and heating due to the changing sun position and weather. As such, one area of a building may require cooling as it’s facing the sun, while the adjacent sides may simultaneously require heating. In conjunction with tenants’ divergent energy needs, lighting, and widely varying floor loads, there are many factors to consider when setting a building’s thermal temperature.

It becomes a priority for owners and managers to optimize their commercial buildings’ operations in favour of thermal comfort. This may seem daunting at first, but the good news is smart solutions like Ecopilot permit an effortless integration of identifying and addressing a building’s thermal needs. But first, it’s important to have a base understanding of what thermal comfort is.

Thermal comfort explained

Put simply, thermal comfort is essentially when a building upholds internal temperatures that allows building occupants to remain comfortable without being too hot or cold.

Having a system in place that assesses and keeps track of variables affecting thermal comfort, such as air flow, energy consumption, humidity, and outdoor temperature, allows building owners and property managers to detect and correct glaring issues to maintain a comfortable, productive, and healthy environment.

Thermal advantage with AI

Buildings have varying thermal needs that require an understanding of their behaviour, patterns, and operations. Getting further into the warmer months means managers are most likely encountering some obstacles regarding their building performance and efficiency. Mitigating these inefficiencies is an outcome achieved with Ecopilot’s AI for HVAC optimization.

By integrating with a building’s existing automation system, this software evaluates all factors, including real-time indoor data, five-day weather forecasts and a building’s unique capacity for thermal mass, to find its balance point temperature, with systems continuously and automatically adjusting to set points for heating, cooling, and ventilation. This simplifies building management for owners as there’s no need to constantly oversee and adjust the temperature to improve a building’s performance.

Don’t believe us? See for yourselves. Below is a snapshot of Ecopilot’s energy efficiency in action, with systems routinely and constantly optimizing existing building control systems, especially during shoulder seasons. These dynamic controls have allowed for a significant reduction in energy and financial costs while maintaining occupant comfort.

Optimizing commercial buildings’ thermal comfort with AI

Figure 1: The existing building automation system (green) reacts to outside air temperature. Ecopilot (red) offsets existing supply temperature set points (blue)) to deliver only the paid energy required to maintain comfort. The result? Energy savings and more comfortable occupants.

Have your building work with you, not against you

While seasonal transitions are likely more costly periods for commercial building owners, there are smart strategies that can be employed to alleviate its impacts. Prioritizing occupant comfort together with building performance doesn’t need to be a challenging or costly practice. Efficiency and comfort are not mutually exclusive goals. Optimizing on their unison will not only be a financial benefit but will also improve the overall quality of a building’s operations and environment.