How do people interact with buildings? A building is a system, with many components affecting energy use and thermal comfort. Designers and engineers using energy simulation typically assume inhabitants’ interaction to be fixed, scheduled or rule-based, as opposed to being active. Post-occupancy evaluations have shown that inhabitants are a key reason for vast differences between predicted and actual energy consumption. Engineers and designers are constrained in their work by lack of knowledge and models of how people use buildings. On the other hand, inhabitants do not comprehend the effects of their interactions with building systems and elements, in relation to comfort and energy, because data on both usage and control is not visible in appropriate forms, places and times. Inhabitants experiencing discomfort have multiple options from which to choose but have insufficient information about the effect these options would have on energy usage and comfort. We propose “Light Weight Look Ahead Options,” an eco-dialogue focused on how personal choices impact comfort and energy use in buildings. We propose three modes of interaction. First “I feel”. Here an inhabitant expresses how (s)he feels in a room, for example, “I feel very cold.” Second, “If buildings could talk”: here the building proposes interaction when inhabitants have been inactive over a long period and the building’s environment differs from norms. Third, “What if?”: inhabitants explore what happens when they interact with different elements, for example, turning the thermostat down or opening windows. A qualitative study shows that inhabitants found each model potentially useful, but preferred the “I feel” model. The system helps them to learn, negotiate and weigh choices.
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Thesis advisor: Woodbury, Robert
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