It’s not uncommon to hear energy use and comfort discussed as a trade-off, with the implication that we need to promote a little discomfort in the name of protecting the climate. However, there are many cases where buildings that are poor at providing comfort are in fact energy hogs, and steps that improve comfort reduce energy use. Focusing on occupant comfort puts people at the center of the building performance issue.
Z Smith suggests using humans as sensors and sources of feedback in conjunction with other building data to inform decisions and boost building performance. He advises a large shift in building industry behavior: designers and operators making sure to include observation and monitoring to gauge how the actual performance of a structure compares to what is designed and expected. In addition to utility bills and building management systems, we can utilize occupants as building sensors to make the changes necessary to increase occupant comfort and control, ultimately leading to decreased energy use. Likening a new building’s operations to how a newborn baby needs to be raised over time, Smith describes the necessity of noting how it actually performs and operates. This information can be used to correct problems and to prevent old issues when designing new buildings. This talk features a number of examples where providing greater individual control and feedback has helped diagnose problems, improve comfort, and reduce energy.
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