Ecosystem-Level Biomimicry for the Built Environment: Adopting Systems Ecology Principles for the Control of Heterogeneous Energy Systems

Kathryn Hinkelman, Wangda Zuo, Jing Wang, Sen Huang, Michael Wetter

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

1 Scopus Citations


This paper presents, to our knowledge, the first system-level engineering study to bio-mimic the cybernetics and flow dynamics of energy resources in natural ecosystems for the control of heterogeneous energy infrastructures in the built environment. To this end, we introduce a novel Biomimetic Pulsing State (BPS) control that functionally mimics mature ecosystems. A preliminary Modelica-based case study features a single-family residential building with electrical and HVAC subsystems. The BPS control objective is to minimize the energy exchange between the building and the grid for the purposes of future self-supporting buildings and grid stability. The building contains PV, a wind turbine, a battery storage system, and a fan coil/heat pump HVAC system served by an ambient district energy network. Evaluating the control performance (BPS vs. constant setpoint) over several renewable energy scenarios (net importer, net zero, net exporter), simulation results show how the building's HVAC system can dynamically adjust its electrical load and temperatures to the electrical system's net energy status in real-time with BPS control. As a net importer, the heat pump consumed 29% less energy and its peak power reduced by 15% with BPS control compared to the constant setpoint case, with the zone air temperature 1 degree C lower on average. As a net exporter, the heat pump effectively consumed the same energy, but the peak power increased by 34% with BPS control, while the zone air temperature was 1 degree C higher when renewable energy was abundant, preheating the home. BPS and constant setpoint control produced comparable results under a net zero scenario. While further evaluation is essential, BPS control may help communities meet their sustainability and resiliency targets as they transition towards fully distributed and renewable energy grids.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2023
Event5th International Conference on Building Energy and Environment (COBEE2022) - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 25 Jul 202229 Jul 2022


Conference5th International Conference on Building Energy and Environment (COBEE2022)
CityMontreal, Canada

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-87852


  • biomimicry
  • building controls
  • interconnected energy systems
  • modelica
  • resiliency


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecosystem-Level Biomimicry for the Built Environment: Adopting Systems Ecology Principles for the Control of Heterogeneous Energy Systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this