An international team of researchers led by CBE has devised a new method for evaluating thermal comfort inside buildings over extended periods of time. The new index, one of many created and tested by the team, has been demonstrated to be a significant improvement over existing indices being used in building design and operation.
Imagine an ice cream parlor that offers only one flavor of ice cream, one chosen by scientists based on what an ‘average’ person wants. While this idea seems absurd, a similar logic has been used in establishing standards for thermal comfort in buildings. A group of CBE staff, industry partners and others have developed a revision to thermal comfort standards that acknowledges the variability in human comfort preferences.
Millions of people are working at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, creating stress and impacting our well-being and productivity. Science shows that time spent in nature may improve our health and emotions, however, when we are not able to be in nature physically, we may derive benefits simply by access to windows with views. A study recently published by CBE found that a view from a window has positive impacts on emotion, cognitive performance and thermal comfort.
We launched a new suite of free and publicly available online resources to facilitate academic and professional studies of thermal comfort in buildings. 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.
The emerging Internet of Things offers opportunities to improve how we design, measure and operate buildings. CBE’s research team conducted a six-month field demonstration of a system using IoT-connected heated and cooled office chairs. 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team recently completed a project with goals of making buildings occupant-responsive in real time, and addressing outdated rules-of-thumb that lead to poor energy performance and occupant comfort. Findings demonstrated that “personal comfort” chairs led to comfort satisfaction for nearly all test subjects. The project team also developed and tested innovative HVAC control methods offering significant energy saving potential.
An expected benefit of 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 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.
As part of a four-year study on the design and operation of radiant systems, CBE collaborated with NBI and TRC Energy Services to complete nine case studies of commercial buildings that demonstrate good performance in terms of both energy performance and occupant satisfaction in buildings with radiant systems. The projects represent diverse approaches to radiant system design, including in-slab and ceiling panel solutions.
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.
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.