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 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