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Siebel Energy Institute Awards Will Advance CBE’s Research in Data Science and the IoT of Buildings

Two proposals from the Center for the Built Environment were recently selected for funding through 2017 research grants from the Siebel Energy Institute. These proposals, to be funded in the 2017 term, leverage technologies from the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) in buildings, including data analytics, advanced sensing, occupant engagement and energy performance in new and innovative ways. The Institute funds innovative research grants in data analytics and machine learning to accelerate advancements in the security, reliability, efficiency, and integrity of modern energy systems. The $50,000 grants are intended as seed money that will allow researchers to develop ideas further, and to pursue more significant funding that will carry projects through additional phases of development, evaluation and commercialization and/or adoption.

Leveraging building data to inform occupants, and to positively modify behaviors.

Supporting occupant health and well-being is an important consideration for building industry stakeholders. Factors such as air pollution, the amount of time people spend indoors and daily psychological stressors from workplace environments create challenges to this overarching goal.

Although human well-being and energy efficiency are sometimes seen as conflicting objectives, research by CBE and other organizations is already revealing this perceived dichotomy to often be false. With new funding from Siebel, CBE researchers Jovan Pantelic and Lindsay Graham will leverage synergies between these two objectives. For the new project, “Informing Occupants and Modifying Their Behavior Through Energy and Air Quality Sensing,” they will develop a tool that joins building performance with user perceptions and behaviors. Specifically, they plan to build a tool that utilizes information from both an IoT building sensing platform, as well as from occupant feedback.  The ultimate aim will be to increase a occupants’ awareness of their personal energy consumption and impacts on air quality, so that they may modify their behavior towards actions that will save energy while also improving indoor air quality.

Testing wearable sensors to improve comfort and save energy.

Existing building management systems (BMS) receive very little information about occupants’ patterns and preferences, resulting in unnecessary energy consumption for heating and cooling, and related waste heat from lighting.

The Siebel-awarded research proposed by Assistant Prof. Stefano SchiavonSinBerBEST Postdoctoral Scholar Shichao Liu, and Associate Prof. Lin Zhang of Tsinghua University/TBSI, will address this problem by creating wearable sensors that will better inform building control strategies to in terms of when heating and cooling is required. In their project, “Incorporating Real-time Thermal Comfort and Indoor Occupancy into Building Management Systems,” they will develop, test and deploy a wearable system with a modified identification badge and optional wristband. The Bluetooth-enabled badges will interact with building access functions to identify when occupants are present, and an accelerometer will detect occupant activity level, important in understanding thermal comfort. The optional wristband may measure additional physiological parameters.

The proposed research aims to reduce energy consumption on building mechanical and lighting systems by approximately 10 to 20 percent while also improving occupant thermal comfort, well-being and productivity. The advanced building control strategies expected to result from this work may also predict energy demand more accurately, which could further reduce energy costs and optimize power grid management.