Modular Construction, Comfort Delivery, Occupant Interaction, Radiative Heating and Cooling
A future is envisioned where buildings are assembled on-site from factory manufactured modular elements that integrate the smart technology needed to enable scalable, cost-effective solutions with autonomous, occupant-responsive, healthy, and sustainable features. The use of modular elements would mean that buildings are assembled rather than constructed on-site with better quality control, less material waste, and more predictable schedules. The use of manufactured building elements can enable more cost-effective integration of new sensors, embedded intelligence, networking, adaptive interfaces, renewable energy, energy recovery, comfort delivery, and resiliency technologies, making high-performance buildings more affordable. To explore and evaluate these modular and intelligent comfort delivery concepts and advanced approaches for interaction with occupants, a new human-building interaction laboratory (HBIL) has been designed and is under development. The facility has a modular construction layout with thermally active panels. The interior surface temperature of each panel can be individually controlled using a hydronic system. Such configuration allows us to emulate different climate zones and building type conditions and perform studies such as the effect of different active building surfaces on thermal comfort, localized comfort delivery, and occupant comfort control, among others. Moreover, each panel is reconfigurable to allow investigating different interior surface treatments for different visual and acoustic comfort conditions. In this paper, the overall design approach of the facility is presented. Furthermore, a prototype panel has been constructed to validate the design and assess the dynamic and steady-state thermal performance. Test results for the prototype panel are also presented here with a discussion on their agreement with design phase modeling results.