March 1, 2022
Staff Accomplishment

BOPTEST Paper Earns Journal Award

Researchers showcase a buildings-related solution

PNNL team members who worked on BOPTEST paper

Researchers from PNNL who worked on the award-winning BOPTEST paper are, from left, Sen Huang, Jan Drgona, Yan Chen, and Draguna Vrabie. 

(Composite image by Shannon Colson | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

An international research team that includes four staff from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has earned a best paper award from the Journal of Building Performance Simulation.

The team’s paper, “Building Optimization Testing Framework (BOPTEST) for Simulation-based Benchmarking of Control Strategies in Buildings,” was published online in October 2021. The article unveils a new framework and set of tools to assess and compare the performance of control algorithms for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial and residential buildings. Improved, flexible HVAC system operation can produce benefits such as energy efficiency, decarbonization, and power grid resilience.

“Receiving this honor is very special and indicative of the current and future impact of our work. The journal bestows the award every other year, not annually, which means many more papers than usual are considered for recognition,” said Sen Huang, PNNL’s lead on BOPTEST.

Huang co-authored the paper with PNNL colleagues Jan Drgona, Yan Chen, and Draguna Vrabie, as well as seven other researchers representing six research organizations: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the United States; Belgium’s KU Leuven, EnergyVille, and Flemish Institute for Technological Research; and Norway’s SINTEF Community.

BOPTEST takes work out of the process

For today’s building owners and operators, the desire to improve control and operation of HVAC systems can be realized through the adoption of promising new and improved algorithms designed to enable effective control strategies. However, it’s difficult to compare the various algorithms, which typically are tested individually, and determine the best one for a given application. Also, it can be risky, expensive, and time-consuming to assess the algorithms in actual building operations.

The research team created BOPTEST to provide accurate and fair side-by-side testing, verification, and performance evaluation of control algorithms. Further, BOPTEST makes it possible for a wide range of sectors, from research to industry, to readily develop and test the performance of new control algorithms.

“The idea for this testing framework stemmed from our need to measure and compare the performance of novel solutions for advanced predictive and adaptive controllers with state-of-the-art control sequences that form the current industry practice,” said Vrabie.

Discussions that started at the Building Simulation 2017 conference with LBNL’s Michael Wetter and David Blum and KU Leuven's Lieve Helsen led to a multi-national collaborative effort in the context of the International Building Performance Simulation Association Project 1.

“Since then, we have developed BOPTEST, published multiple papers, and obtained recognition from an impactful journal in the building simulation community,” Vrabie noted, adding that the team will continue to engage with industry and improve and augment the technology with new capabilities.

BOPTEST code can be accessed in GitHub.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy's Building Technologies Office.