Fault Detection and Diagnostic Tools Ready for Prime Time

A demonstration of data analysis and fault detection and diagnostic tools opened the National Conference for Building Commissioning in Chicago in May. The pre-conference workshop showcased the tools that are available in the market, as well as some that are under development. Five tools (listed at left) are available and reach the market in different ways: Some are sold as standalone software...

06/01/2007


A demonstration of data analysis and fault detection and diagnostic tools opened the National Conference for Building Commissioning in Chicago in May. The pre-conference workshop showcased the tools that are available in the market, as well as some that are under development.

Five tools (listed at left) are available and reach the market in different ways: Some are sold as standalone software, while others are available for free download, or are offered as a part of a comprehensive service.

Several other tools that are still under development include the following:

  • Energy Metrics and Charting System, Portland Energy Conservation Inc. ( www.peci.org );

  • Commissioning the Installation and Technical Equipment-Air Handling Units (CITE-AHU), NIST along with two French agencies ( www.bfrl.nist.gov );

  • Diagnostic Agent for Building Optimisation (DABO), Natural Resources Canada ( www.nrcan.gc.ca );

  • Automated Building Commissioning Analysis Tool (ABCAT), Texas A&M University, ( www.esl.tamu.edu );

  • Functional Testing Data Analysis Tool, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab ( www.lbl.gov ).

Fault detection and diagnostic tools are systems that make use of data available from modern building automation systems (BAS), to evaluate the measured performance of building systems in comparison with some sort of model for expected performance. When differences between measured and expected performance are detected, information is provided to building operators or other tools users about the fault. Some tools go on to diagnose the root cause of the problem.

Algorithms for detecting faults in building systems are becoming more powerful and reliable. Several of the commercially available tools use algorithms developed with public funding, and embed them into tools that add the power of information management. This is both on the front end—using state-of-the-art methods for accessing data that has been collected by the BAS—and on the back end—providing powerful ways of displaying the array of faults that have been detected. In some cases, this extends to integrating with computerized maintenance management systems to ensure that the information can be acted upon.

The major theme that emerged throughout the workshop was the importance of collecting data… and lots of it. Several of the developers indicated that they recommend accessing and archiving all of the data available from the BAS. This may seem excessive, but the cost of collecting these data is much lower than it has ever been, and tools for displaying and analyzing these data are more sophisticated than ever.

The ability to look back and identify when a faulty situation started, or to find out what was happening in other systems when the fault occurred, is priceless. All of the tools had an emphasis on enabling users to view the data in creative ways. It is clear that providing rich data in an intuitive way to a human being can be one of the most cost effective and powerful ways of keeping on top of building system performance.



Tools currently available

• Energy Witness, Interval Data Systems (

• Energy WorkSite and Energy Expert, NorthWrite, Inc. (

• ENFORMA Building Diagnostics, Architectural Energy (

• PACRAT, Facility Dynamics Engineering (

• Universal Translator, PG&E (



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