Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (Engineering)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Gang Wang

Second Committee Member

Wangda Zuo

Third Committee Member

Matthew Jacob Trussoni

Fourth Committee Member

Shihab S. Asfour


The change of weather conditions and occupancy schedules makes heating ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems heavily dynamic. The mass and thermal inertia, nonlinear characteristics and interactions in HVAC systems make the control more complicated. As a result, some conventional control methods often cannot provide desired control performance under variable operating conditions. The purpose of this study is to develop control methods to improve the control performance of HVAC systems. This study focuses on optimizing the airflow-pressure control method of air side economizers, identifying robust building pressurization controls, developing a control method to control outdoor air and building pressure in absence of flow and pressure sensors, stabilizing the cooling coil valve operation and, return fan speed control. The improvements can be achieved by identifying and selecting a method with relatively linear performance characteristics out of the available options, applying fans rather than dampers to control building pressure, and improving the controller’s stability range using cascade control method. A steady state nonlinear network model, for an air handling unit (AHU), air distribution system and conditioned space, is applied to analyze the system control performance of air-side economizers and building pressurization. The study shows that traditional controls with completely interlinked outdoor air, recirculated air, relief air dampers have the best control performance. The decoupled relief damper control may result in negative building static pressure at lower outdoor airflow ratio and excessively positive building static pressure at higher outdoor airflow ratio. On the other hand, return fan speed control has a better controllability on building pressurization. In absence of flow and pressure sensors fixed interlinked damper and linear return fan speed tracking control can maintain constant outside air ratio and positive building pressure. The cascade control method is applied to improve the stability of cooling coil valve operation in single zone air handling unit systems, and return fan speed for building pressure control. The system dynamic response is studied using root locus analysis. It was found that the cascade control improved the stability range in two applications under consideration and made the HVAC feedback control loops more robust and adaptive.


HVAC Controls; Air Handling Unit (AHU); Cascade Control; Heating Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems; Cooling coil valve; Building static pressure