How to Use IoT to Identify Hidden Tune-Up Opportunities During Retro-Commissioning Projects

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Achieving top-quality results is a key for any building retro-commissioning project, it is a golden opportunity to give your building a tune-up. This is a critical factor in stacking the odds in your favor as a commercial property owner, operator, or manager.

If cutting costs and saving time on your next retro-commissioning project interests you, then you’ll love the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT is an advanced technology that uses a system of connected and embedded devices, machines and systems with the ability to transfer data over an Internet network without human input.

When dealing with buildings, especially commercial facilities, IoT promises to provide decision makers with real-time data about building performance on the go as well as allowing for building automation.

It is a scientific innovation that will bring a paradigm shift to the way we manage and conduct operations affecting the use and maintenance of buildings and their equipment. It aims to help enhance efficiency, improve performance, prolong equipment/building lifespan, cut costs, and save time.

Now let us look at retro-commissioning and how it intersects with IoT.

Retro-commissioning, in short, is a quality assurance process that helps tune the performance of the systems in a building. This includes identifying and improving the operations and maintenance of equipment such as HVAC, lighting and other mechanical devices. It sometimes involves tweaking the controls of these systems to obtain maximum performance and at other times can produce recommendations to upgrade the equipment. The goal is to ensure that building systems operate efficiently to meet the energy and cost savings goals of a building.

In the figure below we take a look at some of the reported benefits of retro-commissioning projects.

Source: National Conference on building commissioning

The benefits of retro-commissioning can be amplified by using IoT. This results because IoT can help you to easily identify equipment that is performing poorly, aid you in discovering opportunities to save energy and money, and make it easier to improve the performance of failing building components.

So if you want to join the ranks of individuals that have been able to lower building operating costs and improve the performance of their buildings successfully via retro-commissioning then you need to embrace IoT technology in your building and retro projects.

Here are some practical steps on how you can apply IoT to efficiently discover tune-up opportunities in your building and retro-commissioning projects every time irrespective of the building in question.

7 Problems that Retro-Commissioning can Identify with IoT Smart Building Technology

Using IoT to identify building tune-up opportunities in retro-commissioning projects

Building retro commissioning is a systematic approach that takes into consideration all aspects of a building, including its equipment and systems.

This means that lighting, supplemental load, HVAC distribution systems, heating and cooling plants, etc. are carefully considered for tune-up opportunities. It is at the level of these systems that the concept of IoT can be applied.

Here's how:

1. Lighting

In the U.S., lighting consumes 18% of the electricity generated, out of which commercial buildings are responsible for 71% of the total lighting electricity use. What these numbers show is that lighting contributes significantly to the overall operating cost of a building. Thus, lighting presents a unique opportunity to make significant impact when desiring to cut down on the energy bill, save money, and improve a building’s performance.

Over time, the lighting in buildings gradually become less than optimal thus calling for interventions such as retro-commissioning to upgrade and improve its efficiency.

Here IoT can be used to identify or address issues such as:

  • Scheduled maintenance

Sensor embedded lighting systems can provide data that can be used to predict fairly accurately the best moment to carryout maintenance activities such as re-lamping and cleaning.

  • Malfunctioning controls

Lighting controls are very important in energy consumption and the longevity of the systems. Once a control is faulty, IoT sensors can quickly detect, communicate and record such errors. This is the information that can then be used to perform a corrective measure to address the problem.

New Jersey Transit Uses Smart Building Solution to Reduce Energy Consumption by 37%

IoT makes lighting automation a breeze, whether it is time-based, occupant-based, or schedule-based. During the retro-commissioning exercise, the programming, sensors, and lightning schedules can be checked and corrected where applicable.

2. Supplemental Loads

Supplemental loads deal with additional loads that contribute to energy consumption in a building. They include office equipment consuming energy when not in use and loads arising from the defects in the building envelop. These secondary contributors to energy consumption can be identified for tune-up measures using IoT in the following ways:

  • IoT can provide data regarding energy consumed by equipment especially during periods where they are not in use like weekends or after-work hours. This information will allow for informed decisions such as increasing staff awareness to always shut down equipment before going home or replacing equipment with upgraded smart versions that can automatically shut down (or go into a “sleep” mode) to conserve energy.
  • Sensors can provide vital information regarding a building’s envelope. Data regarding air infiltration and loss can alert and direct engineers to leaks in the building or draw attention to poorly optimized infiltration standards. Correcting infiltration problems can save about 5% of energy used in heating/cooling a commercial building.
3. Distribution Systems

Commercial buildings require a system that distributes air and water in order to produce the desired indoor temperature. During retro-commissioning, this system may need to be investigated and fixed in a process referred to as testing, adjusting, and balancing (TAB).

Sensors and smart devices as part of an IoT network can be used to provide performance based data about HVAC equipment, airflow rate, and water flow rate. Engineers can quickly track and identify issues within the system that need to be corrected, as part of the retro-commissioning effort.

4. Heating and Cooling Systems

Another opportunity for building tune-up that can be accurately identified using IoT during a retro-commissioning is the heating and cooling systems. Of particular interest are the temperature sensors. Poorly calibrated sensors can lead to increase in energy required for heating and cooling as well as leading to occupant discomfort. However with IoT, it can be monitored and aberrations recorded so that corrections can be effected accurately during a retro-commission.

Other devices that are of interest include humidistats, pressure sensors, damper and valve controls which can be monitored over the IoT network. Attention of experts can be directed to leaks and other malfunctions if they arise.

Information regarding the state and performance of boiler system steam traps, boilers combustion airflow, chiller systems, and reciprocating compressors can also be gleaned with IoT technology, thus making identification of faults and upgrades easy and fast.

Additionally, IoT can provide reliable data about equipment energy consumption and building occupancy pattern, which can be used to plan an effective scheduling program during a retro-commission to take advantage of utilities off-peak rates and daylight saving time to save energy.


The efforts carried out during retro commissioning depend on the energy saving opportunities identified. By using IoT technology during your retro-commissioning project, chances are you’ll discover many more tune-up opportunities, which will consequently lead to more energy and cost savings.

The areas mentioned above are areas that IoT can be used to great effect. By so doing, you can rest assured that you’ll attain the goal of the retro-commission projects efficiently, quickly, and at a lower cost.



Extend the life of your building with IoT

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