What if the buildings we live and work in could understand our habits and use this information to conserve energy? That’s the idea behind Human-Building Interaction (HBI), according to a recent Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) report.
What is HBI?
HBI is a way of thinking about the design of a building based on its use. The process studies the way occupants interact with the building to determine ways to encourage energy savings. By understanding the motivations that drive the occupants’ actions, the building’s designers can respond with innovative solutions to promote more efficient energy use within the building.
The HBI Process
Specifically, HBI involves a five-step process of empathizing with users, defining problems, coming up with possible solutions and then prototyping and testing the results. The process requires an understanding of factors like user motivation, ability and triggers, so that these can be incorporated into effective, energy-saving product design.
How HBI Developed
The concept behind HBI is similar to one created by Tony Fadell, a former Senior Vice President at Apple. Fadell became frustrated by ugly, complicated-to-use thermostats while building a “super-energy efficient” house. Working together with former Apple colleague, Matt Rogers, Fadell developed a new way for occupants to interact with a building’s thermostats. The result was the Nest Learning Thermostat, which created a whole new market for smart thermostats. The company was later purchased by Google for $3.2 billion.
The Future of HBI
Thanks to tech-savvy consumers accustomed to smart technologies, advanced automation and social media, the CEE report predicts that the Human-Building Interaction movement will continue to grow. It’s entirely possible that, in the future, HBI will delve even deeper into our use of buildings to develop even smarter, more effective ways to conserve energy.
“Understanding these trends and anticipating the changing landscape of how we interact with buildings,” the report explains, “is crucial to creating innovative energy efficient products and facilitating and maintaining energy saving practices and services.”