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Novel methods for capturing the multi-domain influence of the façade on occupant environmental perception and interaction



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Luna-Navarro, Alessandra  ORCID logo


Appropriate design and operation of transparent façades can enhance occupant well-being and reduce energy consumption in buildings, mitigating the associated carbon emissions. However, to achieve this, knowledge is required on the multi-domain influence of transparent façades on the indoor environmental quality, occupant environmental satisfaction and comfort. Furthermore, occupants interact frequently with façades and windows and these interactions simultaneously affect several domains of the indoor environment (visual, thermal, air quality and acoustic), occupant satisfaction, as well as the façades energy performance. Therefore, occupant-centred and energy efficient design and operation of façades requires data and knowledge of the multi-domain influence of façades on individual occupant environmental preferences, which vary in time and space (across the floor plan), and ultimately to successfully incorporate occupants in the façade control loop. Yet this multi-domain and synergetic relationship between façades and occupants is not well understood. This gap in knowledge is particularly problematic for dynamic façades, where automated controls endeavour to improve the energy efficiency and reduce occupant dissatisfaction. The large number of façade technologies and controls, and the diverse methodologies in literature provides useful, yet inconsistent, insights. In particular, the lack of integrated multi-domain approaches to capture the holistic influence of facades, which includes all relevant environmental domains as well as measure of occupant-façade interaction, constitutes a large barrier to develop facades that are much more occupant-centred and efficient. This research has thus investigated novel methods for capturing subjective occupant data and objective environmental monitoring on indoor environmental quality, occupant environmental satisfaction, discomfort and interaction in order to provide an integrated multi-domain assessment of dynamic (manual and automated) façades. To this end it was necessary to: (i) design, construct and validate a novel test chamber (referred to as MATELab) for performing controlled investigations and (ii) develop a novel Internet of Things toolkit for office environments (named BIT) and deploying the toolkit in real-world offices. In addition to the development and demonstration of these novel methods and tools, the research also deployed these methods in three case studies: (i) a real office environment in London, equipped with a manual dynamic façade; (ii) a real office environment in Italy, equipped with a dynamic façade, which has been both manually and automatically operated; (iii) two alternative dynamic façade typologies (manually and automatically operated) in MATELab. The overarching results from these case studies have shown that: (i) the influence of façades on the indoor environmental quality, occupant satisfaction, discomfort and interaction varies in space and time, across different domains, and between the façade typologies investigated; (2) occupant-façade interaction plays a significant role in occupant satisfaction and therefore it should be included in multi-domain assessments, since occupant response is not only affected by whether a certain environmental condition is reached, but also on how it is achieved, i.e. whether the actuation is perceived as disruptive by the occupants; (3) occupant satisfaction and the level of interaction in one domain are affected by satisfaction in other domains, therefore an integrated multi-domain approach is required to identify the most satisfactory façade technology; (4) the influence of a control strategy or a façade typology was found to vary depending on the local occupant expectations and background or other contextual factors, such as facade typology, control strategy and interface design, therefore extrapolating findings from one case study is difficult and an integrated multi-domain approach is required to capture contextual factors and inform personalised solutions on a case-by-case basis; (5) automated control of dynamic façades can outperform manual control, however their success and acceptance depends on how well they can predict and accommodate occupant integrated multi-domain requirements and expectations. Overall, the research was successful in developing novel methods to capture the integrated multi-domain influence of façades in controlled test chambers and real office environments. Beyond the area of application of this Thesis, this research shows that achieving high levels of data granularity in time and space in a cost effective and human-centred manner is pivotal to the development of occupant-centred and energy-efficient smart building technologies, because the appropriate actuation of the smart building technology is inextricably linked to the quality of the data that is used to trigger the actuation. Future research directions are also identified to overcome in the short term the limitations of the methods here presented, but also to discuss potential new research strands for future long-term work that build upon the output of this research.





Hunt, Gary
Overend, Mauro


facade, comfort, user interaction, automation, multi-domain


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
EPSRC (1785072)
EPSRC, Permasteelisa Group, Arup