Why do we continue heating buildings?
UC Berkeley researchers developed a carbon emission-reducing chair, which allows substantial energy and financial savings while providing the user with higher comfort-levels.
It looks like a regular desk chair, but it is something more. Indeed, it is going to revolutionize the way companies heat their offices, because heating and cooling people is a lot more efficient than heating and cooling buildings. This is the core-concept of Personal Comfort System (PCS), well-known to the market as hyperchair, the result of a project run by theCenter for the Built Environment at UC Berkeley, California.
According to CBE researcher Hui Zhang’s thermal comfort model, “local comfort of feet, hands, and face predominate in determining a person’s overall comfort in warm and cool conditions”. So that there is not any real reasons to waste energy conditioning the entire ambient space, also heating areas where no one gets through. “People can use their own personal comfort system to make themselves comfortable, so to reduce or minimize the air conditioning. This allows to have double benefits: save energy and provide comfort” – Zhang says to Nonsoloambiente.
The seat runs thanks to three heating and hushed fans held inside the chair liner. On the left side, you may activate cooling or heating just by rotating a control knob on a heating board, signalled either by a red or blue indicator. In front of the chair, on the workstation, a ventilation device provides fresh or warm air to employee breathing zone. Then PCS devices are completed by a keyboard made of a covered part of highly conductive aluminium helping to warm palms and wrists, combined with a well-insulated box lying on the floor and ready to heat or cool feet.
In the US, conventional buildings assume people’s comfort fall within a precise range of temperature, set between 22 and 24 Celsius degrees. If this zone was expanded, the heating system wouldn’t need to operate, thus reducing energy consumption. That is exactly what happens using the hyperchair: no need to keep the building temperature within common standards any longer. Indeed, energy and financial savings are possible and accounting for about 9-11% at every degree difference with respect to the set-point, and the chair itself consumes max 14 watts only.
Consequently, a massive introduction would boost a positive environmental impact. “We are currently selling the chairs at $1,500”, PCS President Sven Jensen said to Nonsoloambiente, “we have deployed a few hundreds at this point and we are rapidly ramping up production levels to meet demand. Our chairs can significantly reduce the energy needs of companies, and as such reduce carbon emissions”.
No matter where they are going to be installed, because “the chairs work in both new buildings designed by considering sustainability needs, and in older constructions (which are most of the square footage)”. The revolutionary idea is that anyone can decide his or her own right temperature, with no need for whining or office fights to choose the fit-for-all heating-mode. “We believe in empowering individuals and giving them individual control. With the Hyperchair everyone control his or her own thermal comfort – and thus workplace satisfaction and improve” – Jensen says. Furthermore, chairs are easily manageable, being them Wi-Fi equipped and thus can be operated just by devoted app.
Eventually the question popping up is: Will the hyperchair reach Europe as well, becoming an international green-asset?“We are working on it, but don’t currently have any vendors actively selling”, PCS said. It is probably just a matter of time before sweaters and pullovers could be removed as soon as sitting on the desk chair.