Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

On Track to Carbon Neutral Buildings

EPA Grant Number: SU835503
Title: On Track to Carbon Neutral Buildings
Investigators: Zhu, Yimin , Chen, Shu-Ching , Guvenc, Ismail , Pala, Nezih , Spiegelhalter, Thomas
Current Investigators: Pala, Nezih , Chen, Shu-Ching , Clark, Lisette , Guvenc, Ismail , Ha, Hsin-Yu , Inyim, Peeraya , Islam, Nasidul , Spiegelhalter, Thomas , Tayshetye, Ashwini , Zhu, Yimin
Institution: Florida International University
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Awards , Sustainability



A pathway to carbon neutral buildings, especially for existing buildings, is a longterm dynamic and complex process that requires constant monitoring, control, and adjustments. The goal of this project is to determine if carbon emission prediction and control of building operations over a long period of time can be enhanced by using an integrated self-assessment information system that can inform facility managers and/or owners in real-time if a building is on track to carbon neutrality according to a predefined plan. To achieve this goal, the objectives in Phase I are to design, prototype, and test the following two core components for developing “smart” applications in the future: 1) A building information model (BIM)-based energy simulation platform for setting the carbon emission baseline of a building and predicting carbon emissions using dynamic user patterns; and 2) The algorithm for determining dynamic user patterns using indoor cellphone positioning technology and data from existing building energy management systems.


This project builds on existing advances in building information modeling, energy simulation, and cellphone positioning technology to create a context-sensitive carbon emission reduction management information system. In Phase I, the project team will focus on designing, prototyping, and testing the integration of building information models with energy simulation, and the incorporation of dynamic user patterns to enhance energy simulation and carbon emission prediction. The team will apply its existing work on an on-campus building (called SIPA) and use the building as a test case. A BIM model of SIPA will be created as a central portal to store information for energy modeling such as space, material thermal properties, occupancy schedule, and MEP systems. Real-time energy consumption, set points, and operation schedules will be obtained from the building energy management system. Real-time occupancy information will be captured dynamically using cellphone positioning technology. Dynamic user patterns will then be generated using the real-time occupancy information and building operation data from Metasys and surveys. The dynamic user patterns will be incorporated in the SIPA BIM model. The energy model in a BIM form will be integrated with Energyplus by using the Building Controls Virtual Test Bed (BCVTB) to predict energy consumption and carbon emissions. The BIM model and the energy management system help to create energy and carbon emission baselines. The integration of BIM and energy simulation tools with dynamic user patterns can enable better prediction of energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Expected Results:

The team anticipates that the proposed integrated information system can help facility managers or owners to better manage the long-term dynamic and complex process required to achieve carbon neutral building status. In addition, through interaction with students, faculty, and staff of a facility, the project team hopes to enhance the awareness of those end users in regards to energy saving and carbon emissions reduction.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

carbon neutral buildings, energy simulation, information technology, building information modeling, and cellphone positioning technologies;

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report