QUANTUM: Closing the Performance Gap in Building Services

The four-year EU-funded research project QUANTUM investigated how the performance gap in increasingly complex buildings can be reduced with a series of pragmatic tools and services.

QUANTUM set out to develop a ‘standardised commissioning process’ throughout the building’s lifecycle. A key emphasis was the importance of an independent verification of systems on behalf of the client, to allow open communication of any defects. The overall approach is similar in concept to BSRIA’s Soft Landings in the UK, but with a focus on the provision of ICT and software tools to support the process and specifically address the energy performance gap. The process has been summarised in a free to download guide, ‘Quality Management for Buildings’, published by project partner REHVA, the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations.

The deployment of more and more technologies designed to control energy use within buildings whilst achieving suitable conditions for occupants typically requires input from several disciplines across the construction process. Each of these can lead to potential coordination issues, i.e. interfaces between designers, services specifiers, installers and building operators/managers.

Services commissioning is intended to bridge these gaps, but is often the point at which the energy efficiency and health of the building can be adversely affected, causing a reduction in its actual performance compared to its designed performance. There is therefore the opportunity for new tools and methodologies to support the quality assurance of the commissioning stage to close this contribution to the performance gap, which is especially relevant for the achievement of true nearly zero energy buildings going forward.

The QUANTUM project brought together three innovative tools new to the market to support various stages in the quality assurance journey:

  • The Performance Test Bench (PTB) by Synavision, Germany – the first tool for the digital specification and automated validation of Building Management System (BMS) data
  • Comfortmeter by Factor4, Belgium – A web-based occupant questionnaire for perceived user comfort to understand in-use building conditions
  • NG9 Next Generation Power Analyser (NG9) by Energy Team, Italy – a cost effective and easy to install in-situ energy metering device with online data analysis to supplement existing metering where necessary

The data-led approach allows for scalability at relatively low cost according to the complexity of the building and its systems, particularly since many required measurement systems are usually in place anyway for the operation of a BMS. However, the monitoring and analysis potential is not always optimised to aid initial and ongoing commissioning activities and provide data in an appropriate format for problem solving and decision making.

The core mechanism of QUANTUM’s quality approach is to ‘design for testability’ by specifying transparent performance targets with cost effective testing methodologies relative to the scale and complexity of the building, then tracking them throughout the construction and operation process. However, a common issue is that building owners do not set out sufficiently clear and hence measurable requirements from the outset of a development, yet this needs to be the basis of everything that follows in order to reliably assess whether a building is operating appropriately.

The PTB tool, developed under the QUANTUM project, addresses this by providing a library of building system templates that can be used at the design stage of a development to accelerate target setting and identify the required technical monitoring criteria related to a range of common building services. Customised criteria for existing services, if different from the library entries, can also be added to the PTB, also making it usable for recommissioning existing buildings that have not previously used the tool. The PTB then collates measurement data from the building in use and compares this with the intended specifications, creating a ‘control loop’ to assess if the systems are operating correctly. This technical monitoring tool can therefore be a valuable companion to ongoing commissioning processes.

Control loop for building performance

The other project tools complement PTB by supporting different parts of the process. Comfortmeter provides user feedback during operation to help ensure that comfort criteria are genuinely met alongside the technical system and energy targets. NG9 metering is a valuable addition for existing buildings requiring recommissioning, where insufficient existing measuring points are present for thorough data analysis to take place.

A positive impact beyond the QUANTUM project is the integration of the technical monitoring approach into the COPILOT commissioning certification scheme developed by REHVA and Eurovent – the first scheme to independently verify and certify that building systems are designed, installed, tested and documented in accordance with the client requirements and best practice. The QUANTUM project worked alongside COPILOT to enhance the scheme, with the PTB providing the basis for the certification of technical monitoring based on Germany’s AMEV 135 standard, ‘Technical Monitoring as an Instrument for Quality Assurance’.

Further information on the QUANTUM project, its tools and the COPILOT certification scheme can be found via the following links: