A Technical Framework to Describe Occupant Behavior for Building Energy Simulations

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Green buildings that fail to meet expected design performance criteria indicate that technology alone does not guarantee high performance. Human influences are quite often simplified and ignored in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. Energy-conscious human behavior has been demonstrated to be a significant positive factor for improving the indoor environment while reducing the energy use of buildings. In our study we developed a new technical framework to describe energy-related human behavior in buildings. The energy-related behavior includes accounting for individuals and groups of occupants and their interactions with building energy services systems, appliances and facilities. The technical framework consists of four key components:

  1. the drivers behind energy-related occupant behavior, which are biological, societal, environmental, physical, and economical in nature
  2. the needs of the occupants are based on satisfying criteria that are either physical (e.g. thermal, visual and acoustic comfort) or non-physical (e.g. entertainment, privacy, and social reward)
  3. the actions that building occupants perform when their needs are not fulfilled
  4. the systems with which an occupant can interact to satisfy their needs

The technical framework aims to provide a standardized description of a complete set of human energy-related behaviors in the form of an XML schema. For each type of behavior (e.g., occupants opening/closing windows, switching on/off lights etc.) we identify a set of common behaviors based on a literature review, survey data, and our own field study and analysis. Stochastic models are adopted or developed for each type of behavior to enable the evaluation of the impact of human behavior on energy use in buildings, during either the design or operation phase. We will also demonstrate the use of the technical framework in assessing the impact of occupancy behavior on energy saving technologies. The technical framework presented is part of our human behavior research, a 5-year program under the U.S. - China Clean Energy Research Center for Building Energy Efficiency.

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