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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Broken Information Feedback Loops Prevent Good Building Energy Performance—Integrated Technological and Sociological Fixes Are Needed

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Information feedback loops for building performance range from the long-term— including university education of building designers and their experiential learning from past work on a time scale of years or decades; to the short term—including building occupants seeking to manage their environment with operable windows and thermostats, to building controls themselves on a time scale of seconds or minutes. In between are owners seeking to make informed renovation and retrofit decisions on a time scale of years, and operators looking for ongoing commissioning opportunities on a time scale of hours to months.

Unfortunately all of these feedback loops are often broken, with meaningful convenient performance information typically unavailable for decision-making. Even automatic building controls often fail to perform as expected because of erroneous or missing data from sensors. We examine the current typical disconnects for each of the feedback loops, their interactions, and potential solutions. 

Both improved technology and organizational change are needed to fully establish all the feedback loops for building performance, achieving the twin goals of building quality (e.g., comfort) and reduced resource use (e.g., energy). Currently research sometimes provides an intervention to temporarily close one or more of the feedback loops. However, closing of information feedback loops is often inhibited by perceptions of professional or business risk. Achieving the vision of ubiquitous deep efficiency for buildings will require research, development and demonstration integrating both technological and sociological issues to durably establish feedback at all time scales in building design and operation.

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