New Tool to Improve Building Energy Efficiency Fits In Backpack

May 27, 2015


A group of scientists from University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new tool that measures a building’s dimensions, locates HVAC systems and ductwork, and maps out the location of electrical sources, all in an effort to improve building energy efficiency.

When a building is slated for improvements, designers usually have to comb files to find old drawings or contact the original architect, if they are still in business.  If neither of these options pan out, they have to physically measure the building and the rooms inside by hand.  This has been made easier with the advent of laser measuring devices, but is still a daunting task.

Now, with the new RAPMOD (Rapid Building Energy Modeler) system from Baumann Consulting, one person can simply walk through a building once, wearing a backpack-like device, and the whole building is mapped out, including the HVAC and electrical systems.

“The backpack is something you can wear, which has all the sensors on the back, which can then walk through a building and detect the geometry, the lights, the plug load, and once you take it out, you can create a 3D model which can show an IR (infrared) image of each of the walls and look at the thermal capacity of the building, and then it can be transferred into an energy model, and the energy model could be run and look at how the energy is dispersed within the building, and that’s when we start looking at saving measures and things like that,” says Dr. Annie Marston, Baumann’s Head of Building Performance.

The device uses a barometer to estimate height, and instruments called magnetometers act as 3D compasses.  They gather information about metallic structures.  It has an accuracy of plus or minus 10 centimeters.

Besides creating a model of an existing space or building, the device can be used to capture existing conditions, creating a 3D model as-built for future reference.

Currently the team is working on reducing the weight of the backpack to about 10 kilograms.  Purchasing a unit will cost about $20,000, but the units will also be available for rent.

Source and Photo: VOA News, Walmart Corporate through a Creative Commons License



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.