Observations from the Partner Advisory Board meeting at UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment.

Adrian L. Lu
Apr 27 · 2 min read

Recently, I attended the Partner Advisory Board Meeting for the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment (CBE). CBE’s mission is to improve the environmental quality and energy efficiency of buildings by providing timely, unbiased information on building technologies and design and operation techniques. It was a wonderful learning experience that showed me current thinking by researchers and industry leaders. Here are some observations after attending:

  1. There is an increasing awareness in the water-energy nexus. Historically, water and energy resources have been treated separately. However, these resources are interlinked. Meaning, sustainable water use and management can lead to significant energy use reduction.
  2. Although much of the focus right now in the context of climate change is sustainable energy use and reducing carbon emissions of our buildings, it is important to keep in mind the people who inhabit these buildings too. Emerging standards, such as the WELL building standard for example, are leading the way.
  3. People seem to be generally satisfied with their open office environment, except for when it comes to acoustics. Accommodating for the diversity of subjective experiences at the design level for acoustical comfort is relatively coarse compared to what is available for thermal comfort. I wonder if previous work in developing thermal comfort design practices can inform how we can improve acoustical comfort design practices?
  4. Radiant systems are a promising building technology to reduce the energy consumption from a building’s heating and cooling system.
  5. Ensuring a net-zero energy building remains as such through its life is challenging. People inevitably do not act how designers assume they will. For example, they may block occupant sensors because they are annoying and therefore disrupt the lighting system. How do we encourage people to use these buildings as designed? Positive reinforcement? Negative? Dashboards?

I’m currently working on a post about determining an overall metric to guide my work on buildings and cities. Perhaps it’s carbon dioxide emissions? Or maybe it should be energy use instead? If you have any thoughts on what this should be, I’d love to hear what you think.

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