According to a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency, people spend more than 90% of their time indoors and a significant amount of energy is used to keep building occupants comfortable and mentally and physically healthy.
With this in mind, a team led by Yimin Zhu, an LSU construction management professor, is using immersive virtual environments to measure individuals’ thermal states—i.e., sensation, comfort and acceptability—in an effort to reduce performance gaps in buildings between how much energy builders expect will be needed to heat and cool them versus actual energy performance.
The research, made possible by a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and support from the Construction Industry Advisory Council, works like this: Inside the Engineering Lab Annex on LSU’s campus is a facility divided into three spaces—a climate chamber, office area and mechanical/storage area. Tests are conducted in the climate chamber, a specially equipped space measuring 12 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 9 feet high. Inside the office area, tests are monitored, data analysis is performed, and participants can rest and acclimate before the experiments.
An HVAC system controls the temperature, humidity and airflow of the space. Experiments are conducted by setting the temperature to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, then 75 degrees and then 85 degrees. Relative humidity is set to 50%-55%.
Though the testing is still in the early days, Zhu is encouraged by the role the immersive technology has played in the experiments.
As Zhu and the team finalize the data collection and analysis, it will be shared with research and industry communities to further increase efficiency in building design. Read the full story from LSU.