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VTT: Individual Temperature Control Increases Productivity – and Saves Energy

It happens frequently in the office. My female colleagues and I wear sweaters and scarves while our male co-workers complain about how warm it is.  Often, the temperature for office spaces is far from ideal. A robust man will sweat while a slender woman will shiver, even indoors.

For office spaces in particular the temperature is typically adjusted based on how men, who are more muscular than women, sense the temperature. It’s no wonder we women feel cold. Temperature sensitivity between different people may be as great as 5 degrees Celsius, depending on muscularity, body fat percentage, weight, age, clothing and level of activity. At the same level of activity and with similar clothing, the difference between a muscular man and a much older person may be up to 6 degrees.

A unique solution developed by VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland enables the room temperature to be automatically changed to an more comfortable level for those spending time in the room based on how they sense the temperature. The solution is particularly well suited to offices, hospitals, hotels and retirement homes, which require individual conditions.

“People in the western world spend more than 90% of the day indoors. The thermal comfort also significantly affects work efficiency. If the indoor room temperature in a building is adjusted by 1 to 3 degrees, the productivity of work improves by 4 to 7%. And, according to recent reports, if the indoor conditions are good, the value and utilisation rate of a building can increase by 10%,” says Pekka Tuomaala, principal scientist at VTT.

Pekka Tuomaala, prinicipal scientist at VTT Research, Finland.

Pekka Tuomaala, prinicipal scientist at VTT Research, Finland.

VTT’s IoT (Internet of Things) based solution uses both printed and ordinary sensors to measure the temperature, relative humidity and human presence in the area where adjustment is needed, and send the data to the cloud via the internet. The VTT thermal model then calculates the room temperature setting for the room-specific control connected to the property’s building automation system. On this basis, the heating system either increases or reduces heating or cooling on the premises.

Using printed conductors, information can be transferred from these sensors through structures over even quite extended distances to data transfer units, which then wirelessly relay the data to a cloud service. The cloud-based service using the the Human Thermal Model (HTM) developed by VTT that is based on body composition, clothing and level of activity, then calculates the optimal adjustments for the building automation system

Property Owners Benefit From Reduced Energy Costs

Such temperature adjustments will also result in energy savings, since only those rooms where people are present would be heated in winter and cooled in summer.

Room-specific ventilation-based heating is quick to respond to the needed changes. However, the temperature can also be adjusted in advance on the basis of individual preferences, before the person enters the room.

VTT is now seeking partners to commercialise the tested IoT solution. The solution would, for example, benefit the real estate sector, companies developing and using sensors based on printed electronics and IoT, and companies providing and developing cloud service applications.


About Anne Irene Leino (8 Articles)
Anne-Irene Leino is a freelancer writer based in Helsinki, Finland. She is interested in sustainability, recycling and waste management, and energy efficiency. She covers clean technology in Europe, including R&D advances in Russia.

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