Grey-Box Modeling and Application for Building Energy Simulations - A Critical Review: Article No. 111174

Liang Zhang, Yanfei Li, Zheng O'Neill, Jianli Chen, Piljae Im, Jason DeGraw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus Citations


Grey-box modeling, as one of the three fundamental modeling techniques for building energy models, has many advantages compared with black-box modeling and white-box modeling. It has been widely applied to solve problems of building technologies, such as building load estimation, control and optimization, and building-grid integration. However, a thorough review of grey-box modeling is not available. This review study systematically investigated various aspects of grey-box modeling for buildings. First, the fundamental aspects of grey-box modeling are presented, including the theoretical background, modeling of building elements, modeling order, modeling diagram, and order reduction. Second, the detailed modeling approaches are discussed. Third, multiple applications of grey-box modeling are investigated for building energy domain, which are categorized into the following groups: heat dynamics analysis, thermal load estimation, building control and optimization, district/urban scale energy modeling, and building-grid integration. Finally, the available software packages for grey-box modeling are compared. Overall, the challenges of using grey-box modeling can be summarized as follows: (1) the theoretical limitations and assumptions of grey-box modeling are unclear; (2) grey-box model naming convention and structure are confusing; (3) grey-box model creation is vague; (4) suitable applications of grey-box models are unknown; and (5) grey-box models lack unified software solutions for wider adoption.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages21
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-80129


  • building control and optimization
  • building energy model
  • building-grid integration
  • district/urban energy modeling
  • grey-box modeling
  • heat dynamic analysis
  • hybrid-model
  • RC model
  • reduced-order model
  • resistance-capacitance model
  • simplified model
  • thermal load estimation
  • thermal-network model


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