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Climate Control System Gives Occupants More Temperature Control - Building Robotics - Facility Management Product Release
The building Internet of Things is producing a lot of innovative approaches to improving a building’s performance. One example is Comfy from Building Robotics. It’s a new way to provide occupants more control over the temperature in their space. While the main goal is happier occupants, Comfy often eliminates hot and cold calls and cuts energy use, says Lindsay Baker, president of Building Robotics.
From an occupants’ perspective, Comfy is simple. Occupants log in to the web-based system and indicate where they are located on a floorplan. The system asks them whether they are too warm, too cool, or comfy. An occupant who wants more warm or cool air gets just that, for 10 minutes. In a large zone, it may take clicks from two occupants to get the system to respond. The interface tells occupants that the HVAC system is responding, or explains why it can’t at the moment. It also shows how each occupant’s preferences fit in with the average across the zone.
The result is often an “Aha” moment, says Baker. The system helps to educate occupants about the way that zones work and the other people who share the zone.
What the system isn’t doing is changing set points each time an occupant clicks for more heating or cooling. The idea is to give people what they need when they need it, but not to lock in those requests.
Building Robotics has a metric called agreement rate that offers one indication of how well the system is working. What’s agreement? Agreement means that, within an hour of a click, no one else in the same zone clicks in the opposite direction. By that measure, Comfy has a 97 percent agreement rate.
Behind the scenes, Comfy is recording occupant responses. Every click informs a machine-learning algorithm that gradually learns occupant preferences and eventually changes set points, schedules, and deadbands. “We’re only adjusting zone level settings, says Baker. In “many, many examples,” Baker says, deadbands are being widened, which happens when occupants are satisfied. Comfy often produces reductions in HVAC energy use of 15 to 25 percent, Baker says.
Another metric likely to be of interest to facility managers: “With most clients, hot and cold calls go to zero,” Baker says.
Comfy software plugs into the existing building automation system, using BACnet to communicate. The system is offered on a subscription — software as a service, or SaaS — basis, with everything managed from Building Robotics servers in the cloud. Comfy works best in buildings with VAV systems or other HVAC systems that can respond quickly to occupant requests
Comfy offers a help line for occupants. If a question or complaint comes in, the help line staff can check to make sure that systems are working properly. In one case, a VAV box was delivering warm air when occupants asked for cool air. The problem: The heating coil was stuck on. The personal touch is needed only 1 percent of the time, Baker says.
The help desk also gets alerts when systems aren’t working properly, so that problems can often be corrected before occupants are aware of them, Baker says.
For more insights on the products, technology, benefits and challenges of the Building Internet of Things, visit www.FacilitiesNet.com/IoT
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