Comfort can be a very subjective and wide area, specially related to building’s workspaces. On the other hand it can be divided in several specific areas, like thermal comfort.
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) accounts approximately for about half of the energy consumption in buildings. HVAC technology has been developed, offering operator controllability based on needs in a building, but few of them have put the occupant squarely in the center of that controllability. Changing the indoor air temperature set point can reduce HVAC energy consumption, but changing the set point too aggressively can excessively reduce user comfort.
However, researches at the University of California, Berkeley think they have found a workable individualized solution. It is called the Personal Comfort System (PCS).
The PCS uses low wattage devices embedded into a system of chairs, foot warmers and fans that can quickly warm or cool individual users on demand. The PCS system targets the most thermally sensitive parts of the body, such as face and head, the torso and feet, to provide warmth or cooling as needed and as desired, rather than trying to maintain one temperature for the entire building or floor. The system will also interface with smart phone apps, software, and sensors to relay building temperatures, weather forecast, and thermal satisfaction responses to the people who currently make decisions about energy use in the building.
Office with face fan, feet and chair warmer.
According to other research called, “SPOT: A Smart Personalized Office Thermal Control system” from the University of Waterloo, several assumptions have to be made for the research, such as workers are in offices that have work areas relatively thermally isolated from each other, thus heating and cooling within a personal work space would be for the benefit of a single worker. Also, factors like, equipment costs, calibration, validation and environment can generate different results.
Ideally, an HVAC control system should control room temperature not to achieve a temperature set point, but a particular human comfort level. This is the key idea that motivates the design of Personal Comfort Systems.
Finally, a system that only maintains personalized temperature offsets from a building wide base set point, is not only easy to deploy, but also likely to reduce the overall building energy use. Researchers working on the project think the system could reduce natural gas use by up to 39 percent and electricity consumption by 30 percent in typical California office spaces.
Personalized Office Comfort System Could Save 30% in Building Energy Costs
Personalized Office Comfort System Could Save 30% In Building Energy Costs
Research Paper: SPOT: A Smar Personalized Office Thermal Control System
A Human-Building Interaction Framework for Personalized Thermal Comfort Driven Systems in Office Buildings