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
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’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, 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
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.”
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 (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
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
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
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
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