Can We Practically Bring Physics-based Modeling Into Operational Analytics Tools?
Analytics software is increasingly used to improve and maintain operational efficiency in commercial buildings. Energy managers, owners, and operators are using a diversity of commercial offerings often referred to as Energy Information Systems, Fault Detection and Diagnostic (FDD) systems, or more broadly Energy Management and Information Systems, to cost-effectively enable savings on the order of ten to twenty percent. Most of these systems use data from meters and sensors, with rule-based and/or data-driven models to characterize system and building behavior. In contrast, physics-based modeling uses first-principles and engineering models (e.g., efficiency curves) to characterize system and building behavior. Historically, these physics-based approaches have been used in the design phase of the building life cycle or in retrofit analyses. Researchers have begun exploring the benefits of integrating physics-based models with operational data analytics tools, bridging the gap between design and operations. In this paper, we detail the development and operator use of a software tool that uses hybrid data-driven and physics-based approaches to cooling plant FDD and optimization. Specifically, we describe the system architecture, models, and FDD and optimization algorithms; advantages and disadvantages with respect to purely data-driven approaches; and practical implications for scaling and replicating these techniques. We conclude with an evaluation of the future potential for such tools and future research opportunities.