• New Trane Control to Assist in Building Performance and Decarbonization

    DAVIDSON, N.C.  Trane – by Trane Technologies has introduced Trane Autonomous Control powered by BrainBox AI®, to help building owners and operators increase energy efficiency. Trane® Autonomous Control reduces energy consumption and minimizes carbon emissions with the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

    “For building owners and operators looking for ways to help to decarbonize and reduce energy consumption, Trane Autonomous Control continuously optimizes system performance using predictive data,” said David Molin, vice president of Trane Product Management. “Augmenting controls systems with AI-enabled solutions creates smarter systems, propels buildings to reach energy reduction goals, and accelerates the pathway to decarbonization.”          

    Trane Autonomous Control uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automatically identify and perform system optimization actions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An enhancement to existing Trane Tracer® SC+ systems, it is self-motivated, constantly observing, correcting, and improving. Available as a secure, cloud-based service offering that requires no additional hardware, Trane Autonomous Control is a highly scalable artificial intelligence tool that can support multiple buildings with a single solution.

    It augments current control systems, enabling users to:

    • Capture and synthesize a wealth of real-time and predictive data, including occupancy levels, weather patterns, and system performance information, to optimize efficiency and carbon reduction without sacrificing comfort.
    • Improve system performance and reduce operating and maintenance costs without investing in additional equipment or overburdening employees.
    • Support sustainability goals by reducing energy use and minimizing carbon emissions.

    In an interview with Contracting Business, Marcus Ellson, product engineering manager for Trane, revealed that Trane Autonomous Control Powered by BrainBox AI will help Trane meet the goal of its "Gigaton Challenge," which if successful will reduce the carbon footprints of its customers' systems by a gigaton by 2030.  

    “We're constantly on the lookout for ways we can do that,” Ellson said, “and one of the technologies that we've had our eye on for a long time is artificial intelligence. With our expertise in building control, we saw some good alignment there by bringing those two together. A few years ago, we started canvasing the landscape of that technology and Brain Box AI, where we had a good fit with their motivations, their expertise, their proven implementations in real sites.

    A shared pilot project between Trane and BrainBox AI was started in 2021, using the building of a longtime Trane customer as the test location. Since that time, the customers’ 120 locations have been added to the pilot program.

    “Along the way, as we saw that performance was proven, and we entered a more formal relationship with BrainBox AI, a technology collaboration. And then, just a few months ago, we officially released the offering under the name Trane Autonomous Control,” Ellson revealed.

    While longtime building controls software performs admirably in monitoring and controlling building functions, Ellson said Trane Autonomous Control with BrainBox AI adds some new tools.

    With AI, Ellson said, “We have the ability to better monitor the energy consumption of a piece of equipment, can better understand a forecasted situation, or if we [make a change] in the building, what will the impact be to other aspects of the building? With that information at our fingertips, we can make different decisions, and some of those decisions are going to be better decisions than those a more prescriptive, situational-based sequence would be.”

    To capture and synthesize a wealth of real-time and predictive data and optimize energy efficiency and carbon reduction, Trane Autonomous Control with BrainBox AI takes its understanding of building use patterns and a building’s behavioral history to modulate heating or cooling delivered to various spaces.

    “If it’s a retail location, we can look at its retail hours to understand how the building relates to that. We can look at Google Maps and popular use times, for better understanding of the nuances of something as simple as building occupancy,” Ellson explained. “The end result of these decisions will be familiarity with building behaviors and equipment [performance]. Reducing the cycling of different stages of heating or cooling can be taken into account. The outcomes of these decisions will be familiar to people who have been optimizing buildings, reducing duct static pressure set points, or adjusting discharge air temperature setpoints.”

    Ellson stressed that Trane Autonomous Control is one of many ways Trane customers can spend their discretionary budget to achieve desired outcomes, including those related to sustainability and decarbonization.

    “Autonomous Control is just one of several options, and it's important to know that there's going to be cases where Trane, as a trusted advisor of a customer, wouldn't necessarily recommend Autonomous Control,” Ellson said. “For example, if they have an aging mechanical system that doesn't have a great interface or level of control, we're not going to maximize the benefit of Trane Autonomous Control until we do some underlying upgrades or offer better returns from another option.

    “Trane looks at this as another great tool in our toolbox for the customer to consider, and not only on the merits of expected savings versus investment, but as something that has been resonating with customers, in how they view its financial model.”

    Ellson said Autonomous Control offers a more attractive budgetary scenario than a traditional building systems replacement exercise.

    “A traditional building upgrade project will include energy conservation measures: add a VFD here, replace this piece of equipment and implement this sequence of operations. And that project is likely going to be funded as a capital expense by the customer.  The payback is an estimate, and it's a few years of payback, in a sort of average sense. Now, with Autonomous Control on the table, this is typically something we would deliver through a service agreement, and the customer is able to fund it through their operational budget, a budget that a facilities team is going to have more discretionary, decision-making power to spend. And they're going to start seeing that payback on their very next utility bill. So now, just as a financial instrument to the company, this is more than paying for itself every month. It is a cash flow positive investment and can be a much lower barrier to entry for the customer to really start realizing these savings.” – Terry McIver