Commercial Building Sensors and Controls Systems: Barriers and Drivers: Preprint

Kristi Maisha, Kim Trenbath, Ryan Meyer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Building sensors and controls systems, including building automation systems, comprise the sensor-based devices installed in buildings as well as the control and automation of those devices. Optimized sensors and controls systems could lead to 29% annual energy savings in commercial buildings and are integral to the growth of grid-interactive efficient buildings. Only 13% of small commercial buildings, however, have installed sensors and controls systems, largely because of cost barriers. To accelerate adoption, this work seeks to increase the transparency of system costs and identify specific barriers and drivers. To gather industry insights, the team reached out to building owners, vendors, and contractors and conducted 21 interviews with the goal of collecting cost data and market characteristics regarding building sensors and controls. We collected the cost data in the form of invoices and used it to develop a percentage-based cost category breakdown. The interview data were analyzed using grounded theory to identify overarching concepts such as barriers, drivers, and future directions. From this analysis, we found the primary barriers to be complex and confusing systems, lack of user skills, and financial concerns, and the primary drivers to be operational benefits, insight into operations, and remote access to data. The future directions analysis highlighted the potential technological solutions to address gaps and barriers, as well as predicted drivers to increase adoption. This greater understanding of the costs, barriers, and drivers associated with commercial building sensors and controls systems lays the groundwork for increasing system adoption, reducing energy consumption, and transforming the market.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2023
EventACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Pacific Grove, California
Duration: 21 Aug 202226 Aug 2022


ConferenceACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings
CityPacific Grove, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-83693


  • building automation system
  • building controls
  • commercial buildings
  • controls
  • cost categories
  • market drivers
  • sensors and controls


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