The National Institute for Computational Sciences

NICS Provides Collaborative Support

Pragnesh Patel

Kwai Wong

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Project Developed Building Efficiency Software

A team from the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS) is collaborating with a research group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that has developed software called Autotune, a set of automated calibration techniques for tuning residential and commercial building energy efficiency software models to match measured data.

A recent ORNL news release states, “By cheaply producing calibrated building energy models, Autotune allows ‘no-touch’ audits, optimal retrofits and other simulation-informed applications to be cost-effectively realized for buildings traditionally too small (below 50,000 ft2) to be serviced by industry.”

The NICS team, composed of Pragnesh Patel and Kwai Wong, is providing support to the Autotune project by way of the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) Extended Collaborative Support Services (ECSS) program. The program allows researchers to request to be paired with expert staff members from XSEDE service providers for an extended period, which may range from weeks to up to a year. NICS engages in many such collaborations.

One aspect of the NICS ECSS team's work on the Autotune project entailed running thousands of simulations using an energy-modeling computer application called EnergyPlus on the NICS-managed Nautilus computational resource (now decommissioned) and developing sensitivity analysis code using the R programming language to determine the top parameters to optimize building energy consumption.

Patel explained that the EnergyPlus code is not designed for parallel computing and thus had to be run multiple times at a fast pace to output the parameters. Nautilus, he said, was very well suited for the task because it was a shared-memory machine and easy to set up.

The top parameters relevant to achieving optimal building energy consumption are numerous, but two examples are the proper low-temperature setting for a refrigerator or the ideal locations for windows. Parameter settings vary based on the characteristics of 16 different standard types of buildings and 16 different geographical zones across the U.S., and so simulations based on a 16 x 16 matrix were run to account for each building type and geographical zone. In addition to determining the top parameters, R code generates plots showing the interaction between different parameters of a given building type and geographical zone.

The Titan supercomputer at the ORNL Leadership Computing Facility, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility, was also used in the project. Together, Titan and Nautilus performed millions of EnergyPlus simulations, with generated data totaling hundreds of terabytes.

Currently, Wong is focusing his efforts on integrating the Autotune workflow elements, which include sampling method, simulation, analysis, and plot generation, so that the entire process can be initiated by one click.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy—Building Technologies Office supported the research. The compute allocations on Nautilus were made possible by XSEDE. The ORNL and NICS XSEDE ECSS teams presented a paper titled, “Uncertainty Analysis of a Heavily Instrumented Building at Different Scales of Simulation,” at the Third International High Performance Buildings Conference at Purdue University on July 14–17, 2014.

Scott Gibson, science writer, NICS, JICS

Article posting date: 1 October 2015

About JICS and NICS: The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS) was established by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance scientific discovery and leading-edge engineering, and to further knowledge of computational modeling and simulation. JICS realizes its vision by taking full advantage of petascale-and-beyond computers housed at ORNL and by educating a new generation of scientists and engineers to be well versed in the application of computational modeling and simulation for solving the most challenging scientific and engineering problems. JICS operates the National Institute for Computational Sciences, NICS, one of the nation's leading advanced computing centers. NICS is co-located on the UT Knoxville campus and ORNL, home of the world's most powerful computing complex. The center's mission is to expand the boundaries of human understanding while ensuring the United States' continued leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. NICS is a major partner in the National Science Foundation's eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE).