The plan

What do we have? Given the current state of technology it is not hard to envisage a building management system that optimises energy consumption, thermal comfort and air quality based on predictions of the coming weather, and heat loads associated with building occupancy and operation. It is crucial to accept and account for the unpredictably and variability in such factors. The system would need in incorporate real-time monitoring of the building space to implement strategies to optimise the ventilation for the short-term future (the coming day or next few hours).

Sound easy? It is not... There are significant gaps in our understanding and appreciation of the physics affecting building ventilation that make the short-term implementation of such a system, at best, unreliable and ineffective.

So can it be done? Yes, if one considers decadal time scales then one can begin to list key research questions which, if properly addressed, would enable the design and implementation of just such a building management system. A system which has: sufficient information from real-time monitoring, is fed predictions of the local weather, building occupancy and operation, and runs low-order models of the physics of the building ventilation by considering the building as a number of compartmentalised spaces. In each space within the building the system estimates how thermal comfort, air quality and energy consumption will evolve in the near future for a range of variations in the predicted conditions.

Sounds great, so let's do it. Such a vision is realisable but it highlights a host of scientific an engineering questions that we just don't know the answers to at the moment. If you're interested in what these are, and maybe trying to help answer them, then please have a look at our current list of what we think are the core research themes required to realise this vision...