Intelligent buildings - The principles of personalisation


The behaviour of a building's occupants has a large effect on energy consumption. In addition, one of the biggest complaints in buildings is the lack of individual environmental control. A recent seminar held by the CIBSE Intelligent Buildings group addressed these issues and described new ways of achieving personal control of the environment by using sensory networks embodied with agents which profile environmental preferences for the occupants. This article looks at the background to personalisation

There are several reasons why we should consider how far individuals can control their own microenvironment. Firstly there is the natural human tendency to want to have some degree of personal control over ones working conditions and not to have it dictated from a central point. There is much research that shows personal control of your environment leads to higher productivity. Secondly the main difference between water and energy consumptions in buildings is due to occupancy behaviour and so it is essential we begin to understand the various patterns of behaviour distinguishing individuals and groups of individuals. This will not only give important feedback to the facilities managers and to help them better understand the combinations of conditions which are preferable to people in an organisation but will also provide useful data for refurbishment or future new buildings. It is now agreed that post occupancy evaluation should be a formal part of the design and management process.

Recent developments in the sensor market place mean it is easier and cheaper to install sensors to monitor a variety of conditions. The building design should plan for post occupancy evaluation and collecting useful data. There are a number of options: 
- Setting up a sensor system to monitor individual environmental conditions
- Development of a sense diary to let individuals register there overall reaction to temperature, indoor air quality, lighting and sound
- Developing an intelligent agent at an individuals preferences can be recorded and used to have some degree of control of the systems
- Develop a coordinated data management system which uses post occupancy evaluation techniques.

People spend, live and work most of their time indoors. Sustainable intelligent buildings should provide healthy, comfortable and productive environments. In addition more than 40% of the total energy use and the associated carbon dioxide emissions is building related (Levin, 1997; Pyle, 1996; DEFRA, 2003). To reduce this enormous energy demand in buildings, a number of strategies can be applied both in the design phase and during building operation. Apart from using high-performance building envelopes, energy efficient HVAC and lighting systems and other engineering solutions, energy consumption can also be lowered by changing the attitudes and behaviour of building occupants towards energy use (Crisp 2002; Clements-Croome, 2002).

Facilities management aims to maintain and control buildings in order to satisfy human requirements and at the same time to achieve the best building performance regarding energy consumption. This is a challenging task that is reflected in the high rate of complaints associated with the building environments worldwide (Mendell, 1993; Burge et al., 1987; Bishof et al, 1999). Effective facilities management requires gathering of information about the physical environment but it is equally important to collect direct feedback from the building occupants about their perception of the indoor environment in relation to their work activity and behaviour. Today's technologies give us the opportunity to collect together such information instantaneously and store them in databases for post-occupancy evaluations, or even to use these data for optimized control of the existing building services. Wireless sensor networks are a solution that can enable a proper cohesive data management system to be organised for buildings. For example the ZigBee Protocol became a standard-based wireless platform for remote monitoring and control applications, which was simple, reliable, low-cost and low-power. These technologies will help us to understand the strategies required for operating the building so that energy savings are achieved; and to achieve healthier environments and closer relationship between occupants and buildings.

There are ways in which the relationship between the building occupant and the building with its associated systems can be captured using sensor technologies. Occupancy behaviour is a principal reason affects consumption of energy and water but until now individuals have had little information about how they impact on consumption. The value of this work is that new criteria can be developed; the facilities manager will have a co-ordinated data management system relating occupants, systems are building (Clements-Croome et al 2006). This will help to maintain healthy conditions in the workplace besides helping to improve existing or future designs.

For more information on the Cibse Intelligent Buildings group or its events, please contact its chairman, Professor Derek Clements-Croome, at