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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

New Funding Awarded: Energy Product Evaluation

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

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

Japan-based Daikin Joins CBE

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.

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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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CBE human subjects test for ankle draft

New Capabilities for the CBE Thermal Comfort Tool

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 “Changing the Rules” Demonstrates an Occupant-Based Paradigm for HVAC Control for Energy Savings and Improved Thermal Comfort

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

Interview: Director Edward Arens Reflects on Two Decades of Collaboration

CBE Director Edward Arens, PhD, came to UC Berkeley in 1980 and soon founded the Building Science Group. In this interview he reflects on major milestones in the formation of CBE’s organization and contributions.  Read more