The average American working full time spends more than one-third of their day, five days per week, in their workplace. These spaces must support our physical and mental health and wellbeing, while also enabling the desired business outcomes of collaboration, innovation and productivity. While many noteworthy and applicable findings from health research have been released in recent years, ongoing challenges remain for disseminating these findings, for helping practitioners to integrate advanced research into understandable and actionable concepts, and ultimately for impacting workplace outcomes. Read more
The emerging trend toward smart electric vehicles is creating new opportunities for synergistic innovations that are applicable to both buildings and cars. For example, the Tesla Powerwall, which grew out of automobile battery development, now offers a way for buildings to be more grid responsive. Likewise, model-based control concepts, greatly advanced by the automotive sector, are now being tested in the control of complex commercial buildings. These synergies, what we might call the building-automotive nexus, are also reflected in CBE’s body of research on thermal comfort. Read more
This spring, CBE welcomes a global HVAC manufacturer as one of its newest industry members. Having yet to fully establish themselves in North America, you could be forgiven for not recognizing the Daikin brand. However, with annual sales of over 17 billion dollars, Daikin is indeed a global leader in air conditioning equipment.
The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) offers opportunities to improve how we design, measure and operate buildings. A research team at UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE) conducted a six-month field demonstration of a system using IoT-connected office chairs, with integrated heating and cooling, that yielded valuable innovations for both building occupants and the research community. Results demonstrated high levels of comfort seen in few buildings. In addition, the data from occupants’ use of the chairs can be used to predict thermal comfort more accurately than methods previously available.
By Lindsay T. Graham
Every day we leave traces in our wake that provide clues as to who we are. The way we talk, the music, movies, and books we like, the possessions we own, and even the spaces (both virtual and physical) we craft and maintain shed light on not only who we are today, but also who we will likely be in the future1. Even seemingly small pieces of information provide reliable and accurate insight into our identities. For instance, research has shown even something as minute as our email address2 or the screennames3 we generate reflect accurate depictions of the personality traits we possess. As you might imagine, our daily environments (like our homes, offices, Facebook profiles)—places where tons of personal information is captured, created, and stored—provide even bigger clues about who we are as individuals4. Read more
An important goal at the Center for the Built Environment is to provide tools to assist industry professionals to create energy efficient and comfortable buildings. To this end, in 2013 we first launched the online CBE Thermal Comfort Tool as a way to help practitioners predict thermal comfort in buildings, according to the primary industry standard, ASHRAE Standard 55. CBE’s tool has been actively used, with as many as 6000 users per year, and it offers numerous capabilities, which we have expanded in the most recent version. Read more
CBE’s research team recently completed an ambitious project with complementary goals of making buildings occupant-responsive in real time, and addressing outdated rules-of-thumb that were leading to poor performance in both energy use and occupant comfort. Among the numerous findings from this work, it demonstrated that “personal comfort” chairs led to comfort satisfaction for 96 percent of the test subjects, a level well above what is observed in most buildings. The project team also developed and tested innovative HVAC control methods offering significant energy saving potential, and that may be easily implemented in commercial buildings using the most common overhead variable-air-volume (VAV) reheat systems. Read more
An expected benefit of the Internet of Things (IoT) in buildings will come from an improved ability to monitor indoor environments in ways that lead to actionable insights. A panel session hosted by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE) explored three innovative methods to monitor buildings using the latest in sensing and communicating technologies. The ideas range from futuristic to immediately applicable, with a focus on measuring CO2. Understanding CO2 concentrations in buildings is important, as several recent studies suggest that high levels of the gas may have negative effects on our cognitive performance, yet there are challenges to measuring it in a reliable and comprehensive manner. Read more
In a zero-net energy world, operation of both buildings and the electric grid need to be more flexible and responsive. This symposium explored the interaction of ZNE buildings, DERs and the increasingly renewable-rich electrical grid. It brought together engineering and design professionals, policy experts, researchers and other thought leaders to address how recent successes are changing existing ZNE paradigms, and how our policies, building energy standards, and aspirational ‘Big Bold Energy Strategies’ should evolve to deliver deep greenhouse gas reductions and a healthy economy in the next decade. Read more
As part of a four-year study on the design and operation of radiant systems, CBE in collaboration with the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and TRC Energy Services have completed case studies of nine commercial buildings that demonstrate good performance in terms of both energy performance and occupant satisfaction in buildings with radiant systems. These include commercial, government, and higher education buildings, and all but one were built, or underwent major renovations, since 2010. The projects represent diverse approaches to radiant system design, including in-slab and ceiling panel solutions. Eight projects are located in western U.S. states, and one in British Columbia. Read more
Wells Fargo, a company known for their leadership in the financial services industry, is the latest company to join CBE’s industry consortium. Their focus on sustainability has been a priority for over 10 years. They built their first LEED certified branch in 2008, and include LEED certification as a basic standard for all new builds, major renovations, and space acquisitions. However, LEED is not the only thing they are focused on; they have committed to an ambitious set of operational goals to be achieved by the year 2020. Read more
Since CBE’s launch in 1997, collaborations with industry and government partners have been central to our work, and have led directly to many of CBE’s most important and far-reaching results. The center began then with ten partners (consortium members), a requirement set by the National Science Foundation for funding as an Industry/University Collaborative Research Center; membership has grown in recent years to almost 40 members. CBE’s membership consortium continues to provide a nimble and fluid platform for collaboration, without the typical administrative burdens required with project-based funding. Read more
Four buildings that showcase sustainable design and provide high quality spaces for work and study have been recognized as part of the annual Livable Buildings Award, a program of UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE). Although the four projects represent diverse building types, they all share success in providing indoor environments that achieve the highest levels of occupant satisfaction, as measured by CBE’s Occupant Survey. Read more
Two reports released from UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of radiant cooling and heating systems, a promising HVAC technology that is becoming increasingly used in commercial buildings in North America, including in a high proportion of ultra-low and zero-net energy buildings. These reports reveal how such systems work in practice, analyzing comprehensive data from a large group of buildings in operation. Read more
After a short hiatus, Interface Engineering rejoined CBE’s industry consortium this spring. With the firm’s emphasis on low-energy integrated design and creative collaboration, Interface’s participation will add significant value to CBE’s membership community. Read more
CBE Director Edward Arens and Research Specialist Hui Zhang made a visit to China this summer to explore new research opportunities with several leading universities and a developer of residential towers. The trip was organized by former CBE visiting scholars who made important contributions to CBE’s work, who are now developing new research laboratories and programs China, leading research of relevance to CBE and its industry partners. Read more
The latest company to join CBE’s consortium, Aclima, has garnered global recognition as a leader in the application of sensor networks to provide environmental intelligence since coming out of stealth in 2015. Headquartered in San Francisco, the technology company provides information services from a unique sensing system powered by leading-edge environmental sensors, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. This platform provides actionable insights for buildings, communities, cities and industry. Aclima’s combined focus on environmental quality and technology development makes it a welcome and fitting addition to CBE’s consortium of building industry leaders. Read more
Last fall we were impressed by a presentation by Ali Ghahramani, who at the time was completing his PhD dissertation in engineering at USC, related to adaptive sensing and learning for human-centered HVAC operations, using human subject test data. Ali’s technical abilities and the relevance of his studies made him an ideal addition to CBE’s research team, and he joined us this spring as a post-doctoral researcher. Read more
At the Living Future 17 “unConference” that took place recently in Seattle, CBE research staff collaborated with two principals from Integral Group on a panel session that explored new developments and synergies that exist when designing for zero-net energy and passive survivability. The session included speakers Dave Ramslie and John Andary, both Principals with Integral Group, and Prof. Gail Brager and David Lehrer (as moderator) of CBE. Read more
Dangers from climate change, more frequent extreme weather events and resulting power outages represent growing concerns for government agencies, building owners and design professionals. This session explored how stakeholders are addressing resilience at multiple scales, presenting tools and design strategies at the scale of individual buildings; and ideas for infrastructure, policy and community-building for cities and communities. The session also touched on the inherent synergies between resiliency, sustainability and social equity.