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Building Energy Use Not Primed to Occupancy, MIT Says

MIT researchers have found that energy use does not always correspond to occupancy.

Their study, ENERNET: Studying the dynamic relationship between building occupancy and energy consumption, examining two MIT buildings, found that while electricity use corresponds to occupancy fairly well in those spaces, the activity of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the buildings does not correlate closely to occupancy.

The paper examines two very different types of structures. Building 37 houses researchers in astrophysics, aeronautics and astronautics in a combination of offices, classrooms and labs, while building E52 is the home of MIT’s Department of Economics, comprising a sizable entrance atrium and a large number of offices. The researchers used the number of WiFi connections as a proxy for occupancy, a method they said could be replicated elsewhere at low cost.

As co-author Carlo Ratti noted, huge amounts of energy are often used to heat buildings up during the day – but buildings can empty out in just a few minutes. More dynamic energy use can therefore create huge savings.

The study, published in the April issue of the journal Energy and Buildings, suggests possible architectural or engineering solutions. For example, new sensing-based thermostats can control temperatures on a more precise level within buildings.

The report also suggest that existing spaces can be used for new purposes. For example, a once rarely used common space now hosts a snack bar, allowing its occupancy to more closely match the space’s energy use. Also, the researchers suggest that use of space within buildings could be planned to conserve energy, citing the example of high-occupancy offices positioned around a lecture hall, keeping the hall warmer.

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4 thoughts on “Building Energy Use Not Primed to Occupancy, MIT Says

  1. It’s OK-since we are not considering lesser use of Energy (Conservation)-can be taken care of by ISO 14 K. tO IMPLIMENT ISO 50 K the occupancy is not a mandatory requirement, but En MS has to apply to HVAC and other equipments to run with utmost efficiency/ output will be a part of En MS

  2. It’s OK-since we are not considering lesser use of Energy (Conservation)-can be taken care of by ISO 14 K. tO IMPLIMENT ISO 50 K the occupancy is not a mandatory requirement, but En MS has to apply to HVAC and other equipments to run with utmost efficiency/ output will be a part of En MS

  3. What are losses, negative effects of stringing out high-occupancy offices, to warm a lower occupancy lecture hall? Besides raising energy costs in the offices, any productivity loss would be 100 (1000) times more costly.

  4. [the activity of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the buildings does not correlate closely to occupancy.]

    Well, actually it does correspond to occupancy. In modern controls sequence of operation, demand ventilation is implemented as a standard strategy cutting the cost of energy use on the basis of measured levels of CO2. HVAC Energy utilization is curtailed by 15% – 30%. So occupancy DOES have a bearing on HVAC energy use as well (in this current technology scenario).

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