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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Well-connected microzones for increased building efficiency and occupant comfort


Thermal microzones, such as those created by Personal Comfort Systems (PCS’s), have been shown to be capable of maintaining occupant comfort in buildings despite large zone temperature deviations from recommended “comfortable'' temperatures. We show that by developing well-connected microzone devices that report real-time telemetry and respond to programmatic actuation requests, these established capabilities can be synergistically combined with occupant-aware building applications to enable new methods of comfort and energy efficiency maximization. We present a novel digital controller for a well-studied (previously analog) PCS chair that maintains 90% occupant comfort over a 20ºF range while using less than 16W for heating and 3.6W for cooling. Using the digital PCS chair, a furniture microzone system is evaluated in two settings. The first utilizes a controlled testbed to demonstrate the functionality of the microzone control system along with a representative set of control algorithms including comfort-driven setpoint manipulation and transparent demand response. The second is a two month pilot study of 30 digital chairs given to occupants of a building that exhibited low occupant comfort levels. The chair telemetry was used to analyze occupant comfort in real-time, and drive HVAC control. We conclude with a brief overview of the questions posed by this platform, along with research areas enabled by such fine-grained real-time control and measurement of building occupant comfort. 

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