August 2014

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Impact of ASHRAE 90.1 on Controls and BAS Design

Optimized controls are now required for HVAC systems and lighting controls (for interior, exterior, and parking structures) as well as control over certain plug loads. 

Paul Ehrlich, Ira Goldschmidt & Angela Lewis
Building Intelligence Group

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Engineered Systems 
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In an effort to improve energy efficiency for commercial buildings, ASHRAE, IES, ANSI, and the DOE have been working diligently to increase the stringency of state energy codes.  Today most states have accepted a version of ASHRAE / ANSI 90.1 as the basis for their energy codes for all but low-rise residential buildings.  Beginning over 10 years ago, a series of aggressive goals were set in place that included a 30% decrease in new building energy use between the 2004 and 2010 versions of the standard.  This was successfully accomplished in stages starting with improvements in the 2007 release (around 7%) and achieving the 30% goal in the 2010 release.  The 2013 version of the standard is now complete and shows roughly another 8% improvement.  While states have some leeway to set their own energy codes, they are being strongly encouraged by the DOE to utilize the latest 90.1 2010 as the baseline.  To date about 20% of the states have moved to 90.1 2010 and it is projected that over half will adopt the new code by the end of 2015.  For more details on the plans state by state, see   

As you would expect, providing the same level of services (light levels, comfort, ventilation, plug load, etc.) in a commercial building while using 30% less energy is not a trivial task.  To achieve this level of efficiency, there are many changes required in the newer versions of 90.1. These range from improvements in building envelope, more efficient HVAC equipment, and reduced lighting power densities.  Woven throughout the code though are specific requirements for controls.  Optimized controls are now required for HVAC systems and lighting controls (for interior, exterior, and parking structures) as well as control over certain plug loads. 

Here is a summary of changes required in the 2010 and 2013 versions of 90.1 related to controls:


contemporary Lighting Control:

Other Requirements:

While the standard does not explicitly require the use of systems integration or an “Intelligent Building,” it does have much more extensive controls requirements. The use of an integrated approach is likely to both be more cost effective and provide the required performance of this more stringent code.

About the Authors
Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at  We also invite you to contact us directly at or


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