Partially decentralized control of large-scale variable-refrigerant-flow systems in buildings

Neera Jain, Justin P. Koeln, Shreyas Sundaram, Andrew G. Alleyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We consider the problem of designing a scalable control architecture for large-scale variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) systems. Using a gray-box modeling approach, and by exploiting the one-way coupling between the fluid dynamics and thermal dynamics, we derive individual linearized models for each class of dynamics. This sufficiently reduces the complexity of the problem so that a scalable analysis is possible. Based on the natural dynamics and coupling of the VRF system, which become apparent through the structure of the derived models, a partially decentralized control architecture is proposed. Communication is limited to one-way sensor information flow from the individual decentralized controllers to a global controller, leading to a simple yet highly effective control architecture which easily scales for systems with a large number of evaporators. The ability of the proposed control architecture and design to provide both high performance and reduced energy consumption is demonstrated through a simulated case study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798-819
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Process Control
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Building systems
  • Control architecture selection
  • Decentralized control
  • Large scale systems
  • Vapor compression systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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