March 2013
Column
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The Importance of Measurement and Feedback
There is a need for continued measurement and feedback, since only with this continued input can we improve.

Paul Ehrlich, Ira Goldschmidt & Angela Lewis
Building Intelligence Group

As published
Engineered Systems 
March Issue - Column


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Bill Gates, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, has dedicated his time and efforts toward running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Gates Foundation has a significant endowment and is focused on solving a series of weighty global issues including poverty, health and education.  Each year the foundation publishes a letter talking about their progress.  A few weeks ago the 2013 letter from Bill Gates was released.  The letter talks about the importance of  “Measuring Progress” and starts with a discussion of an early micrometer (“the Lord Chancellor”) that was instrumental in the development of the steam age.  Gates goes on to explain the importance of measurement and metrics for the work being funded by the foundation.  As an example one of their programs is to eradicate the spread of Polio. Being able to track and measure where the last cases remained and a plan to eradicate these was critical on the path to wipe out this disease. 

The topic of measurement made me realize the importance of measurement and feedback as we work on designing, commissioning, operating and servicing Building Automation Systems.  A good control system, by definition, utilizes feedback for accurate control.  For example if we have a DDC control loop that is modulating a chilled water valve will typically use the associated setpoint and discharge air temperature as inputs to the loop. 

It is also important that as system designers that we get feedback on how our designs operate.  Unfortunately we often end up working “open loop” and don’t have that feedback.  As a result it is not uncommon for systems not to be achieving our design goals in terms of cost, efficiency, comfort and performance.  So how do we get good feedback?  Here are a few suggestions:

The other big question is what to measure.  We typically measure a series of parameters that range from project cost and variance from budget, to the amount of energy saved and the conformance to parameters including uptime and comfort. 

I agree with Gates. There is a need for continued measurement and feedback, since only with this continued input can we improve.


About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at www.buildingintelligencegroup.com  We also invite you to contact us directly at Paul@buildingintelligencegroup.com or ira@buildingintelligencegroup.com

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