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
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
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.
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an ambitious project with complementary goals of making buildings occupant-responsive in real time, and addressing outdated rules-of-thumb that were leading to poor performance in both energy use and occupant comfort.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
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
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
Open-plan office spaces have become widely adopted across many industries, driven in part by a range of expected benefits including reduced real estate costs, more flexibility, and enhanced communication and collaboration between employees. However, the evolution to ubiquitous open offices has not been without growing pains; they have inspired derision from some office workers, and have provided feedstock for journalists’ workplace exposés. Read more