As we look for new ways to improve building performance in our efforts to reduce energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions from commercial buildings, we must also recognize that occupant comfort cannot be sacrificed. While people’s attitudes towards indoor comfort are complex and dynamic, building systems are not designed to respond to these needs.
A new research collaboration at Berkeley focuses on opportunities to use advanced computing to enable “intelligent” building infrastructure. This has primarily been a partnership among researchers from CED’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE) and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). In just a short time a number of fruitful projects have come out of this collaboration.
One of these initial projects is sMAP (Simple Measurement and Actuation Profile), an open-source protocol to easily integrate data from different sources in buildings — such as energy and building system operations data — into a uniform and accessible platform. Buildings usually have little data on comfort levels and operational efficiency. sMAP has helped by creating a method for gathering these data efficiently. The platform has been deployed in buildings across the UC Berkeley campus as well as at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Based on this work done while they were Ph.D. researchers in computer science at Berkeley’s LoCal Group, Andrew Krioukov (M.S. Computer Science ’13) and Stephen Dawson-Haggerty (Ph.D. Computer Science ’14) developed Comfy, a learning thermostat designed for commercial buildings, and the first product to come out of their Oakland-based startup, Building Robotics. While currently working on my PhD in Building Science at the CED, I also co-lead Building Robotics — along with co-founders Andrew and Stephen, and VP Design & Communications Beau Trincia (M.Arch ’06) — guiding an interdisciplinary team focused on re-inventing building controls with advanced computing and thoughtful user experience.
The Comfy software works on the philosophy that is central to CBE: preferences for temperature vary considerably over time, in different climates, and across populations. In other words, there is no “one size fits all” for temperature. Some of CBE’s most current work looks at the related principle of alliesthesia, explained in this recent paper.
Currently, buildings are not run dynamically — most buildings typically condition spaces between 70–73 degrees throughout the day. The Comfy software enables dynamic and demand-based conditions, providing both an immediate response from the building (either warm or cool air, temporarily) and machine learning to optimize zone temperatures based on user preferences, time of day, day of the week, and the temperature of the space. When no user feedback is seen, the space is left less conditioned to save energy. The software also provides the ability to control lights in a similar fashion.
One interesting aspect of our work is the direct interface between people and the dynamic building space around them. Figure 1 shows the Comfy interface, designed to be more understandable than a typical control. In this way, Comfy has become a wonderful field study in thermal comfort.
Supporting previous CBE findings, we’ve found that people use Comfy to set temperatures in a far broader range than normal — as cold as 65 degrees and as warm as 80 degrees. We see seasonal preferences change as well, especially in the summer when many office buildings tend to be over-cooled. As we dress for the summer, so we prefer our work environments to be warmer. Figures 2 and 3 show our initial data on these issues, showing how people’s temperature preferences can vary significantly more than we may imagine. Importantly, we’ve found a strong persistence over time in the use of the tool, indicating that people build a lasting relationship with the building through this interface.
Technologies like Comfy will increasingly redefine how people experience and interact with buildings in the coming years, allowing a much deeper relationship between the human body and the world around us. What other possibilities will this capability allow? We are looking forward to seeing how this growing field evolves into this new exciting frontier.
To say that Sheila Kennedy is redefining architecture is not an understatement. As the 2014 recipient of the Berkeley-Rupp Architecture Professorship and Prize, Kennedy is recognized not only for her innovative approach to soft infrastructure — expanding the idea of “material” to include the organizational systems with which architecture is made — but also for her dedication to supporting underserved women’s communities through her work.
Made possible through a bequest by UC Berkeley alumna Sigrid Lorenzen Rupp, the bi-annual Berkeley-Rupp Prize of $100,000 is given by UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design to a distinguished design practitioner or academic who has made a significant contribution to advance gender equity in the field of architecture, and whose work emphasizes a commitment to sustainability and community. The prize includes a semester-long professorship, public lecture, and gallery exhibition at CED.
As a founding principal of KVA Matx, Sheila Kennedy directs an interdisciplinary design practice that works at the intersection of architecture, urbanism, and new infrastructure for emerging public needs. Her award winning projects in Brazil, France, Germany, China and the United States include notable building commissions with leading research universities; the East River Public Ferry Terminal in Manhattan; the Soft House work/live residences in Hamburg, Germany; Boston’s Chrysanthemum Building, a low-carbon model for urban housing; and the Portable Light Project, a Matx non-profit design, research and engineering initiative that builds upon the skill sets of women makers in the developing world by integrating clean energy and lighting with textile craft traditions.
Kennedy is also a Professor of the Practice of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture & Planning, the first woman to hold that position at MIT.
“We are delighted to recognize Sheila Kennedy with this prize. Her work is expanding the boundaries of architecture through designs that transform the way we think about materials and urban infrastructure. Her leadership in developing ecologically responsible soft design solutions to enhance the lives of women in developing countries — and her commitment to apply these innovative design principles here at home — exemplifies the highest goals for the Berkeley-Rupp Prize,” said CED Dean Jennifer Wolch.
Kennedy will begin her period in residence at CED in January 2015. As part of her research, Kennedy will partner with NGOs to engage communities of fabricators in three developing regions around the world. She will lead UC Berkeley students in computation, architectural design, engineering, and city planning in a series of hands-on design workshops exploring new urban infrastructure. Using soft materials — from paper to wood to bio-plastic — the group will develop open-source digital fabrication techniques and create adaptable prototypes such as pop-up solar streetlights, soft refridgeration kits for bicycle vendors, and public benches that collect and clean fresh water. These prototypes will be exhibited at UC Berkeley and fabrication kits will be shared with NGOs and the public online.
“Design leadership that integrates systems, inspires collaboration, and honors culture is essential if we are to craft a sustainable future,” said Allison Williams, vice president and director of design at the global engineering firm AECOM and a member of the nominating committe. “Sheila’s creative work in inventing new links between urbanized and natural ecologies, and changing the ways in which we think about material culture and manufacturing in a society that is increasingly local and global, is the embodiment of what we strive to cultivate with this prize.”
On Wednesday, January 28th, Kennedy will give a public lecture at Wurster Hall Gallery on soft infrastructure including her work on the Portable Light Project. From April 8th through May 1st, 2015, in Wurster Hall Room 108, Kennedy will host an open studio exhibition showcasing her research and work-in-progress by students in her graduate design studio.
Environmental psychology provided the framework for understanding place, specifically Canter’s definition of place as the overlap between physical attributes, activities, and conceptions. When interviewing practicing architects, it became clear that in the for-profit design world, architects use a variety of techniques to become familiar with the specific physical attributes of place while activities of place are usually provided in the design brief. However, conceptions of place are harder to communicate across wide cultural and geographical gaps, hence are often neglected. At the same time, in the non-profit world of architecture, while more attention is given to learning conceptions, the information provided is not always enough for the architect’s place-information palette. As technology and particularly the variety of social network tools develop and become widely used around the world, I decided to study whether these tools can be harnessed to bridge the gap between local communities and global designers providing solutions in developing regions.
Based on case-studies in the field of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), technology without human motivation is not enough to create development. Empowering local communities requires both a top-down approach and a bottom-up solution. The opportunity provided to Native American Nations in the US to use federal funds to both design and build their own housing solutions is a top-down approach that calls for bottom-up solutions to allow the community simple ways to influence the design — essentially the core of this project. Together with Professor Agogino from the department of Mechanical Engineering and Ryan Shelby, a Mechanical Engineering PhD. student, we established CARES — Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability — with the goal to support Native American and other communities in making informed decision about sustainable design solutions.
CARES works closely with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN), a Native American Nation located near Ukiah, two hours’ drive north of Berkeley, to co-design sustainable housing and community design solutions that are culturally appropriate. Our trans-disciplinary design process encompasses faculty and students from architecture and engineering, and community members working together throughout the cycle of design, construction, and post-occupancy evaluation.
In the search for technologies that could facilitate our design process, we decided to organize an international design challenge for a Living Culture Center that the PPN is interested in building. Our proposal for the design challenge won second prize in the Berkeley Big Ideas competition from the Blum Center for Developing Economies, providing a kick-start to the project. We brought in a distinguished jury from leading design firms and received additional generous support from the College of Environmental Design and the College of Engineering, followed by a contribution from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and from the PPN. These resources allowed us to run a design competition attracting professionals and students from around the world.
Out of 38 registered teams, 17 submitted their design ideas including teams from India, Japan, Spain, Georgia, UK, Dominican Republic, Canada, and the U.S. Three categories of prizes were awarded: the general prize; a Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize, and a Social and Cultural Integrity Prize — each of these acknowledging different design qualities of the submissions. The blind jury, comprised of contemporary Native-American and sustainable design practitioners, as well as community leaders, evaluated the submissions to select the winners. The first prize was awarded to a team of graduate students from the CED that included Gabriel Kaprielian, Marisha Farnsworth, Liz Kee and Jonghoon Im. The second was awarded to Elements Architects, a firm located in the Greater Chicago area; and the third prize was shared by Kengo Sato from Japan and Kadi Franson, Nathan Pundt and Leah Nichols representing a team from Oakland.
ParticiPlace2012 allowed the PPN to define their building requirements and discuss a variety of ideas that they can use as they go forward in realizing the building. The Living Culture Center will allow the PPN to practice, preserve, and revive their unique, native-Pomo culture. The proposed designs encourage active social exchange, cultural education, and living cultural practice. Once built, it will create space for PPN citizens to integrate long-standing traditions with contemporary lives.
On a research level the project demonstrates that even under conditions of cultural and geographical distance between designers and place, community members and designers can bridge this gap by using available information and communication technologies. Based on analysis of a variety of data collected throughout the process, my own research showed that international designers who had never visited the site could provide solutions that were as place-appropriate as the solutions provided by those who were situated nearby. Though globalization may have created a chasm between designers and local characteristics of place, this research calls to empower local community members through common technology to help bridge that gap and to enable designers to become intimate with the places that they help to design.