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

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

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 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

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

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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Nine Radiant Case Study Buildings Demonstrate Energy Efficiency and Occupant Satisfaction

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