Photo by Tim Griffith, courtesy of ZGF Architects

Innovative Thermal Comfort

The Innovation Center redefines how occupants experience and control their individual comfort. Integrative design eliminated mechanical cooling and reduced the heating system to a small, distributed electric-resistance system.

Most buildings rely on blowing hot or cold air using large combined HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems to maintain a set temperature, which wastes energy and actually has little impact on how comfortable a person feels. In contrast, the Innovation Center addresses all six factors that impact individual comfort, requiring dramatically less energy.

Six Factors that Influence Comfort

The Innovation Center’s comfort strategy is guided by the following factors, which were delivered according to listed design strategies:

  1. Air velocity: Fans overhead, USB and standing fans, and fans in personal heating and cooling chairs
  2. Surface temperature: Superinsulating windows and envelope, thermal mass, bio-phase-change materials in walls and lightshelves, predictive preconditioning by charging thermal mass with a night flush, and personal heating and cooling chairs
  3. Air temperature: Natural ventilation, operable windows, distributed, radiant heating mats in floors, and aggressive heat recovery (90% efficient) to preheat ventilation air
  4. Clothing level: Adaptive dress code for staff and event attendees
  5. Metabolic rate: Stand-up desk options
  6. Humidity: Not actively controlled

Technologies to Deliver Comfort

Several technologies are used in the Innovation Center to deliver thermal comfort, using the least amount of energy possible including:

  • Electric floor mats provide targeted, radiant heat to occupants and are only used on the coldest mornings.
  • Personalized heating/cooling chairs provide occupants with individual thermal controls by delivering heating and cooling directly to their body with only 14 watts in heating mode, and four watts in ventilation mode.
  • Personal USB fans that plug into computers for each occupant. Good airflow, (>120 fpm) enables air temperatures to be four degrees F warmer without making occupants uncomfortable.
  • High-efficiency ceiling fans that use only two to 30 watts depending on speed settings, exceeding ENERGY STAR requirements by 450–750%
Insight Brief

Redefining and Delivering Thermal Comfort in Buildings, 2016

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Example contract for implementing the Innovation Center thermal comfort strategy, 2016

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Excessive AC a Hot Topic in the U.S., 2015

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