AIR CONDITIONING

Device developed to cool disputes over room temperature in Hong Kong offices

Researcher uses personal data including gender to determine most suitable room temperature for majority of staff working in an office

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 9:03am

If you are a female white collar worker in Hong Kong, the chances are you will constantly feel uncomfortably cold because of the low temperatures in male-dominated offices. The reason, according to studies, is that the cold better suits the faster metabolism of men.

To make office temperatures suitable for both men and women, as well as to reduce the city’s power consumption, a researcher from Polytechnic University has invented a smart device that can adjust the temperature of a room’s air conditioning using data it collects from occupants.

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“There is no mechanism that can precisely measure every individual’s thermal comfort level yet, so we came up with this platform that can adjust room thermal levels to satisfy office workers’ needs as much as possible,” associate professor Wang Dan from the Department of Computing said.

The platform, called the Personalised Thermal Comfort Platform, can collect data from a building’s central air conditioning system, as well as feedback from occupants through their smartphones.

After users input their height, weight, gender and other relevant information, the device will use its algorithms to calculate the best thermal comfort level for the users’ office, and will then automatically adjust the temperature of the room’s air conditioning to that level.

“Of course it can only cater to the needs of the majority in an office, not every single individual,” Wang said. “But the thermal comfort level should not vary tremendously between each person as they will dress in a similar way in the same work environment.”

“If you put a monk and a big sports guy in the same room, then of course they would have very different room temperature needs,” Wang said. “But that case is too extreme.”

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Commercial buildings took up almost 69 per cent of electricity consumption in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

Wang estimated that by using the device in commercial buildings, the average room temperature could be increased by 1.75 degrees Celsius and electricity consumption reduced by 18 per cent.

“When you talk about energy conservation, the first thing building managers consider is the comfort level of occupants,” Wang said. “That’s why scientists who study this field have to consider how to maintain people’s comfort level when trying to conserve energy.”