The Smart Workplace: Promoting Health and Sustainability in Small to Medium Sized Buildings Through IT-Enabled Hybrid Ventilation

Spring 2017
Xinyi Song

Previous studies continue to demonstrate the impact of indoor built environment conditions on occupant wellness and productivity. Under the umbrella of smart cities, my research expands the concept of the smart building into the "smart workplace." Because over 98% of all commercial buildings in the United States are considered small to medium size with less than 100,000 square feet (ft2) in area, the goal of the proposed project is to promote a healthy and sustainable workplace through IT- enabled hybrid ventilation in small to medium sized commercial buildings in suitable climate zones in the US. Hybrid ventilation is defined as a mixed use of natural ventilation (NV) and mechanical cooling. Ventilation is qualified as “natural” if it has no energy consumption and noise from fan powers, but is achieved by opening vents such as windows. It is used to exhaust heat and contaminants generated indoors to the outdoors when the external environment is favorable. Mechanical cooling such as the air-conditioning system is used to assist with removing part of the heat load when this is unachievable by natural ventilation alone. Under the fall 2016 FEWS Fellows Program, climate suitability analysis was conducted to identify suitable candidates for hybrid ventilation using 30 years of Actual Meteorological Year (AMY) data from fifteen representative cities (Miami, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Albuquerque, Seattle, Chicago, Boulder, Minneapolis, Helena, and Duluth). Furthermore, thermal comfort uncertainty analysis was conducted to minimize thermal risks associated with NV by incorporating effect of the variability in influencing factors such as building microclimate, building properties, usage patterns, etc. into simulation. Building on the preliminary work, students in this project will obtain and analyze real-time onsite weather data to design different level of intelligent control algorithms (such as rule based control and neural network control), which is then used to develop a smartphone app that informs occupants of daily window opening schedules. Compared to the current fully mixed indoor air conditioning which introduces only a minimum amount of outdoor air as required, hybrid ventilation improves indoor environment conditions, reduces building energy consumption while still maintain thermal comfort, thus motivates occupants towards more healthy and environmentally friendly usage behaviors in the workplace. 

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