Article - Jan 2000
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 Not Only a New Way of Doing
But a New Way of Thinking!

Maybe a marriage between a web-based survey modified to provide continuously dynamic update and feedback into web based virtual control system could offer a better solution. 

Ken Sinclair, Sinclair Energy Services

Room Temperature

RoomTemp SetPoint


When I first got my mind around the concept of Virtual Thermostats and Light Switches on a networked PC,  I perceived that we were talking about the conversion of the existing physical devices to virtual devices.  The virtual device would be an emulation of the existing devices we have come to love and hate, but presented in an interactive graphic on our PC screen. I was very excited about this concept as it allowed us to cost effectively provide thermostat adjustment to each connected PC. From this we could build a database of client interactions and allow input from clients who did traditionally not have physical thermostats. For now temperature sensing would be handled in a traditional manner.

Evolution todate has seen the presentation of the virtual thermostat in a cold HTML page with the ability to input a requested numeric temperature. Interaction and database assembly todate has been very limited. I am not sure that our clients will perceive this as an improvement.  

[an error occurred while processing this directive]When you start to implement logic for  virtual thermostats you are reminded of all of the problems that exist with conventional thermostats. Issues such as poor existing client thermal zoning, lack of understanding by clients of how existing thermostats actually work, and the complex relationship people have with finite temperature numbers.

Although the new tools allow us an excellent method of communicating our story as to why we cannot make our client completely comfortable, do they care?  I feel a percentage are interested in learning the why's and will wade though FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).  Most only want to communicate with us about their concerns and be assured that we are looking after them.

I recently came across some work done by the Center For The Built Environment - a dynamic, collaborative place where people can share ideas for improving the design and operation of commercial buildings.

From their site:

"Occupant surveys are an invaluable source of information for improving the performance of buildings.  Surveys allow you to objectively gauge which building services and interior design features are working and which aren't, and to prioritize the steps needed to improve occupant satisfaction and workplace productivity.  

In the past, occupant surveys have been expensive to administer and time-consuming to take. CBE has developed a cost-effective alternative.  Our web-based, paperless survey takes approximately ten minutes to complete.  The survey is intuitive and streamlined, preserves the confidentiality of respondents and controls access in order to maintain data integrity."  

Maybe a marriage between a web-based survey modified to provide continuously dynamic update and feedback into web based virtual control system could offer a better solution.

Comfort Control driving by a continuous interactive survey would allow traditionally static survey documentation to come alive with instant time stamping with real time data while survey was being completed. Much of the survey data would be entered only once, but dynamic data could be entered anytime and would be augmented with real time temperatures and lighting levels data, time synchronized with dynamic survey. Problems both real and perceived could be much better documented. Psychology and science could meet and be fed back into the control strategy 

Below is a copy of a portion of one of the survey pages.

Thermal Comfort

How satisfied are you with the...



1- temperature?
2- air movement?

Please rate how important Thermal Comfort is to you in the work you do.

not very


Are there any other issues related to Thermal Comfort that are important to you?
(To respond click in box and type)

Copyright 1997-1999 Center for the Built Environment
Created: September 15, 1997
Revised: August 31, 1999

The survey goes on 

How satisfied are you with the...

1- Ventilation quality?

2- Freedom from distracting odors?

3- Humidity level?

Of course it is easy to conceive the other input parameters such as Light Level, Acoustic, etc.

Although the above is all uncharted territory I feel it warrants a few pilot projects to test its viability.  Any takers?

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