Building Commissioning Cart

Mobile measurement carts originally developed for field research are being adapted for building commissioning

For assistance with the commissioning efforts of the New York Times newspaper, the Times staff brought in researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and the Center for the Built Environment. Because the results of these tests would contribute new knowledge to the building industry at large, the team was able to obtain funding support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the California Energy Commission. 

Project Objective

Develop and test an indoor environmental measurement platform with associated sensors and software for real-time evaluation of HVAC system performance. Provide special capabilities suitable for detailed analysis of buildings with underfloor air distribution (UFAD) or displacement ventilation (DV) systems.

Research Approach

We have developed the mobile measurement cart by adapting a commercially available hand truck, commonly used for moving boxes and other heavy items. The hand truck design was selected because it can be moved freely around a room and takes up a minimum of horizontal space. The cart is configured with the following instrumentation:

Computer: Laptop computer with software visualization and data processing software and a database to store results for further review and analysis.

Stratification profile tree: A series of rapid response thermocouples on a telescoping pole can extend to 13 feet, with thermocouples in increments of 9 or 12 inches, and 4 inches from the floor and ceiling. An additional thermocouple is available for insertion into floor diffusers to measure supply air temperature.

Plenum pressure measurement: An accurate low pressure-measuring transducer for measurement of plenum-to-room differential pressure.

Radiant temperature: Two infrared (IR) temperature detectors oriented to measure ceiling and floor surface temperatures.

In addition to the cart-mounted instrumentation, the system uses up to 70 wireless sensors that may be installed in UFAD floor diffusers. Temperature data from the sensors is transmitted by a self-configuring, radio "mesh" network, and recorded on the laptop on the cart. This data is used in conjunction with the other measurements to evaluate the performance of the system. Data can be displayed in real time as and historical data can be retrieved from the database for analysis.


The cart was employed in the commissioning of the new 52-story New York Times (NYT) headquarters building in New York City. The system combined real time measurements with analysis based on emerging UFAD commissioning procedures while supporting the NYT's desired work flow. CBE fabricated a second version of the cart provided to the NY Times, which is now being used for new CBE field studies in UFAD buildings in a research effort sponsored by the U.S. General Services Administration.

CBE Cart Research