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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Window signalling systems: control strategies and occupant behaviour


Signalling systems that tell building occupants when to open and close windows have become a popular strategy for balancing the comfort benefits of manual windows with the efficiency benefits of automation in mixed-mode buildings. Data from surveys, interviews and site observations in 16 US buildings reveal a diversity of design objectives, control sequences and circumstances to anticipate when designing buildings with window signalling systems. The signals had the strongest influence on occupants’ use of windows when they were visible, the logic behind the controls algorithms was clearly understood, and they were seen as an informational device linked to an explicit internal policy that has to do with efficient and comfortable building operation. Lower levels of participation occurred when occupants tend not to pay attention to their windows, or the signals, unless they are uncomfortable, at which point it matters little what the signals indicate. However, occupants who do discover value in the signals are more likely to be more satisfied with their personal control. Occupants’ reasons for opening windows may include the desire for fresh air or air movement, which is as important to them as temperature adjustment, but admittedly difficult to program into the controls’ algorithms. 

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