RMI Innovation Center

2018 Livable Buildings Award Winner Announced

Now in its twelfth year, the Livable Buildings Award recognizes projects that demonstrate high occupant satisfaction, excellent design, and innovative operation strategies. This year, we are pleased to announce the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center as the top winner, with an honorable mention for the Pomona College Millikan Science Building. These buildings, along with all of the finalists, received highly positive feedback from the buildings’ users, as demonstrated by the CBE Occupant Survey. In fact, these buildings received the first and second highest rankings for satisfaction with the buildings overall.  Read more

Internet of Things illustration

Symposium on the Changing Face of ZNE and Responsible Grid Citizenship (October 2018)

More than ten years ago the California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established aspirational goals of Zero Net Energy (ZNE) for all new residential construction by 2020 and all new nonresidential and highrise residential construction by 2030 with half of existing buildings being renovated to ZNE by 2030.

Over the past decade these goals have evolved and the steps to achieve them have been discussed, debated, and fleshed out. The definition and implementation path for ZNE, the metrics to be employed, and role of the electric grid and utility infrastructure have all evolved over time and continue to evolve. More recently, awareness has grown that ZNE is not a goal in itself, but simply a step towards deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonization of the California economy is now seen as essential to achieving the state’s 2050 greenhouse gas targets.

A group of exceptional speakers discussed topics related to state policy as well as building design and operations essential to moving to ZNE and beyond toward an efficient, low-carbon California.  Read more

Thomas Parkinson

Interview with Thomas Parkinson: Getting Comfortable at Berkeley

This spring CBE’s research team was joined by post-doctoral researcher Thomas Parkinson, a leading expert on thermal perception in dynamic environments. Thomas earned his Ph.D. at the University of Sydney where he studied with long-standing CBE research collaborator Prof. Richard de Dear. He later became a lecturer there until his journey east to UC Berkeley. In this post we learn about Thomas’ plans and experiences so far with CBE.  Read more

Interview with CBE Researcher (and new ASHRAE Fellow!) Fred Bauman

Project Scientist Fred Bauman recently received the ASHRAE Fellow award, a recognition for those who have distinguished themselves in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. His contributions to ASHRAE and the broader industry are based on the extensive research on underfloor air distribution (UFAD) that he directed at CBE, leading to deeper knowledge and guidance for these advanced HVAC systems. More recently, he has led a similar effort within CBE to address thermally massive radiant systems. Learn more about his research and what he has been working on over the past 30+ years at UC Berkeley. Read more

Artistic rendering of call center

Participate in our Office Workplace Survey

Do you work in an office? CBE needs your help!

We are conducting a survey on knowledge workers’ experiences in the workplace, in collaboration with Perkins+Will and Charles M. Salter Associates. The survey will take about 15 minutes to complete. Please share this survey with your coworkers and friends! By participating, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of four $50 Amazon gift cards.

Click here to start the survey

Please email researcher Lindsay Graham with any questions.

Comfort database visualization tool

Interactive Thermal Comfort Tools add to CBE’s Public Offerings

A new suite of free and publicly available online resources have been launched to facilitate academic and professional studies of thermal comfort in buildings, the result of a four-year effort  led by the Center for the Built Environment at UC Berkeley and the University of Sydney’s Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory. These tools can be used to inform questions about thermal comfort, and to encourage the design of climate-responsive and comfortable low energy (and ZNE) buildings. Read more

Technology Innovator TEECOM Joins UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment

As sensors, networks, and smart devices create increasingly interdependent building systems, collaborative research between design disciplines becomes vital for advancing the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. TEECOM, an international building technology consulting firm, was formed to embody a culture of multidisciplinary research. Joining the Center for the Built Environment consortium is a natural extension of the firm’s work. Read more

CBE Welcomes New Partner RMW

Since forming in 1970, full-service design firm RMW Architecture & Interiors has been dedicated to shaping responsive and innovative environments for academic, civic, industrial, life science, manufacturing, and workplace spaces. As a mid-size firm of 86 employees, with studios in San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento, they are dedicated to advancing connections between people and place, buildings and well-being, passion and process, and sustainability and possibility. Read more

Office plan of ceiling fan study site

CBE Research on Ceiling Fans May Help Tackle Future Global Challenges

It’s exciting when we have the opportunity to experience new sustainable buildings first hand. Last week, while attending the CHESC conference at UC Santa Barbara, along with other attendees I stayed in newly completed student housing designed to meet LEED Platinum standards. While these attractive new buildings exhibit many sustainable features, at times the natural ventilation scheme was not sufficient to maintain comfortable conditions, especially when it was necessary to lower blinds for privacy, or to close windows to block noise from the street and some late night volleyball games.

However, a simple and cost-effective addition to these units would have kept us all comfortable: ceiling fans. CBE research has quantified what we all know intuitively, that fans can provide acceptable comfort at temperatures that otherwise would be stifling. This enables passive solutions in milder climates, and may reduce the reliance on air conditioning in climates where passive solutions alone are not sufficient.  Read more

CBE student awardees 2018

Scholarship Awards Acknowledge Contributions of CBE Graduate Students and Visiting Scholars

CBE’s research mission is supported largely by a talented group of graduate students and visiting student scholars from abroad. This spring, several student team members received merit-based scholarships that will support their studies and participation at professional conferences. CBE Director Edward Arens notes that these awards are an important acknowledgement of the ongoing and future contributions of these students. “By working on CBE research, these students gain important training, and work on issues of key importance to industry leaders. These are the future leaders who will continue the important work of transforming the built environment,” he notes. Read more

SmithGroupJJR Joins UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment

SmithGroupJJR, one of the world’s preeminent integrated design firms, joined the CBE consortium in April 2018. Working across a network of 12 offices in the U.S. and China, their team of 1,300 experts is committed to excellence in strategy, design and delivery. The firm partners with forward-looking clients to maximize opportunities, minimize risk and solve their most complex problems. SmithGroupJJR creates exceptional design solutions for healthcare, science and technology organizations, higher education and cultural institutions, urban environments, diverse workplaces, mixed-use and waterfront developments, and parks and open spaces. Read more

New Partner PAE: Collaborating to Create Better Environments

Engineers have a reputation for complicating things, but the folks at PAE like to keep it simple: People and nature are the driving forces behind their work, both inside and out. PAE designs high-performing buildings that keep people comfortable, healthy, and productive inside, while restoring the natural world outside.

This approach makes PAE an ideal partner for CBE’s industry consortium. As Principal Alan Shepherd points out, “We are excited for the opportunity to be kept abreast of the latest research in occupant comfort and wellbeing, and let this information inform and inspire our designs, as well as help our firm’s up-and-coming engineers learn.”

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CBE and Engineering Leader Sanken to Collaborate on Radiant Cooling Technologies

This April, CBE welcomed to its consortium Sanken, a Japan-based engineering leader that will collaborate with researchers at CBE and overseas on radiant cooling technologies. This new collaboration builds on Sanken’s efforts that span several decades to innovate and provide customers with reliable and advanced systems and facilities. Read more

Quinn Evans Architects Joins CBE Consortium

Quinn Evans Architects (QEA) joined CBE’s research consortium in spring 2018. With a diverse portfolio of historic, cultural, educational, and urban revitalization projects, QEA helps their clients realize context-sensitive, community-oriented designs that address immediate needs as well as long term resilience and stewardship objectives. For 35 years, QEA has specialized in the stewardship of existing places — from nationally known cultural and educational institutions, to local schools, theaters, and community centers. In this context of stewardship, they manage change to provide a physical connection to the generations that care, manage, and experience these extraordinary places. Their work is rooted in developing a deep understanding of existing places and is enhanced by a full complement of tools and technology that enable high-performance design solutions that are focused on creating meaningful and memorable connections between people and places.   Read more

New Funding Awarded: Energy Product Evaluation

In March, CBE’s research team received the welcome news of a successful proposal led by the UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute, with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley, to form a new California Energy Product Evaluation (Cal-EPE) Hub. The objective of the Cal-EPE Hub is to evaluate commercially available technologies that are relevant to institutional and commercial customer procurement processes, including products related to energy efficiency, renewable distributed generation, and distributed storage. This work will lead to a buyer’s guide directed toward potential customers hoping to make more informed decisions.  Read more

Visualization of solar load on a driver

Comfort in Buildings, and Vehicles Too

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

Healthy workplace image

Symposium on Putting Health and Wellbeing Research Findings into Practice

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

Japan-based Daikin Joins CBE

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.

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Using an Internet of Things Platform to Improve Comfort Prediction

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.
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What do your spaces say about you?

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 individuals4Read more