Intelligent building environmental control

Volume 19, Number 1

A researcher crouches next to a tripod with a sensor on top to measure indoor air quality

Setting up for indoor environmental quality testing in an office environment

A major priority of the High Performance Building program is to provide our building industry clients and collaborators with technical solutions, tools, and technologies that will help building owners reduce the cost of lighting, ventilation, and plug loads (such as personal computing equipment).

Building services related to lighting, ventilation, and plug load represent a large share of the cost of operating a commercial building. Solutions for reducing operating costs need to address technology limitations, inadequate standards, high cost of sensors, and a lack of reliable validation and demonstrations of the savings and benefits. Through collaborative projects and technical services, NRC is working with its collaborators and clients to overcome these problems and to help meet owners’ demand for validated technologies and major reductions in operating costs.

New frontiers in lighting

The lighting component of the program concentrates on solid state lighting, specifically light-emitting diodes (LEDs). This technology—an electronic device that emits visible light—has the potential to provide much more efficient and longer lasting lighting systems than is possible with existing technologies. It is controllable in ways not possible with current systems, and therefore has the potential to revolutionize lighting in buildings.

NRC is now working with industry collaborators on developing research and technology projects to enhance LED technology to maximize both energy efficiency and colour control, while ensuring superior functionality.

The best LED technology can offer very high colour quality and excellent granular control. A key focus of NRC and its collaborators from the LED lighting value chain is to determine whether colour quality can be traded off against lower illuminance levels for greater energy efficiency.

Our research capabilities and technical services also address the issue of flicker, which occurs as a by-product of some electronic drivers that run LEDs. Flicker has been reported to cause headaches and eye strain. Through collaborative projects and technical services, we aim to provide technical solutions and results for appropriate control systems, standards and guidelines to aid in avoiding any health impacts due to flicker issues, and to ensure wide market acceptance and deployment of LEDs for indoor lighting.

Our LED-related research and technology projects include those that support efforts by federal and territorial governments to reduce energy use in far northern communities. Through collaborative projects, NRC is carrying out studies applying energy-efficient lighting technology in combination with effective personal control systems. Results are expected to demonstrate how light levels and spectrum affect well-being.

Advancing HVAC technology

With industry collaborators, NRC researchers are developing projects to design and evaluate new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) prototypes in the “office” laboratory for improved energy efficiency and thermal comfort. Specifically, we can help the HVAC industry with technical solutions to decouple HVAC components. This will lead to increased energy efficiency and reduced diameter ducting through the use of radiant panels and hydronic heating and cooling systems.

With decoupled HVAC systems, partners can offer owners much-reduced retrofit costs by using smaller-diameter ducting and providing personalised air delivery for occupants of office buildings. This will help builders reduce the cost of new construction by decreasing plenum height.

Cost-effective and automated thermal control in buildings

NRC expertise and capabilities will help research collaborators develop prototype and integrated control technologies and sensors designed to adjust airflow and lighting levels to different zones of a building, based on the precise number of people in a room and their personal preferences. Such advances will help our collaborators offer services and technologies to impact energy savings for building operations; in the case of the HVAC systems alone, it is estimated that savings could be nearly 40 percent. The same system can be adapted to control plug loads in office buildings.

We are seeking collaborators to participate in demonstration projects for new cost effective systems and services for building environmental controls.


Dino Zuppa
Telephone: 613-949-0073