For building operators comfort is what it’s all about. Comfort keeps tenants, and that keeps buildings full. How does comfort and energy efficiency work together?
Traditional building management wisdom assumes that acceptable thermal comfort, and indoor air quality, levels are generally accepted, measurable values which can be delivered by building control systems. Even basic control systems are very good at providing replicable environmental conditions, day after day, but does this meet the comfort needs of building occupants?
Comfort is more than thermal and IAQ comfort. Physical security, social acceptance, noise, odors, building condition, and “doing the right thing” all contribute to occupant comfort.
Surveys have been used as a means to engage building occupants to better understand how people feel about their buildings, but that records just a single point in time. If we can provide a simple effective means to get location specific feedback from occupants, building operators will be better equipped to understand occupant needs. QR codes on signage, readable by any smartphone, can provide the location specific means of gathering this feedback.
Giving people better information about their building, and even social expectations, can help improve comfort. In one building, I gave an occupant a low cost digital thermometer after finding that she ran a portable space heater year round, due to problems with both heating and cooling. She later emailed to say that she now uses the space heater much less because the thermometer made her realize that she should be comfortable at indicated room temperature.
We are all learning how to improve our building operational and business processes to provide people with comfort with less energy. The secret is not building technology, but people.