Crowdsourcing refers to enlisting the help of a large group of people to get information about a particular project, in our case how you feel about indoor temperatures on campus. There are a lot of different reasons to crowdsource data, one being its "value of tapping into the collective knowledge and wisdom of the crowd" (from Crowdsource.com). We know that we wouldn't have our comfort dataset without you, and participation of the campus community helps us find insights that wouldn't be possible without their crowdsourced data.
The concept of crowdsourcing has been around since 1714, when the British government offered a monetary prize to whoever could come up with the most reliable way to compute longitude. Between 2000 and 2006 Youtube and Wikipedia came to life, and are examples of powerful crowdsourcing platforms. The term crowdsourcing didn't become a buzz word until around 2006 though, with this article published in Wired. Now it's even popular on reality TV with shows such as American Idol, but let's get back to crowdsourcing comfort... (history from DesignCrowd).
TherMOOstat is a tool to crowdsourcing comfort feedback, providing insight into your comfort levels in indoor campus spaces. It's designed to gather data to build a unique comfort database for the Energy Conservation Office (ECO). At ECO, we use your crowdsourced feedback to analyze long-term trends and find energy inefficiencies. Often times users expect changes to occur immediately after using TherMOOstat. The comments that we receive help the Energy Feedback Team determine if there is equipment that's malfunctioning or turned off when it shouldn't be. However, it is important to reinforce that TherMOOstat is not an alternative to submitting a work order.
From a recent survey of students and staff, we found 69% did not know TherMOOstat is used to crowdsource comfort feedback. These results suggest users think TherMOOstat is only used for reporting discomfort and didn't know their feedback contributes to future energy projects. We would like to share with you what we do with your feedback and how it helps us analyze trends and improve energy inefficiencies.
How are trends and data analyzed?
The graph below shows comfort feedback from a selection of buildings on campus, red for hot submissions and blue for cold submissions. The position of the comfort bubbles are determined by the average room temperature at the time of the TherMOOstat submissions. The size of the bubble corresponds with the number of submissions for that comfort type and at that indoor temperature. The heating and cooling set points, which are threshold temperatures that trigger heating and cooling in a space, are typically between 69°F and 78°F. However, within this set point range, each building has a different variety of comfort submissions. This tells us that each building is different: 70-72°F seems chilly in Gallagher Hall and seems hot in Olson Hall.
Creating a Campus Comfort Plan
TherMOOstat’s mission is to improve building occupants’ comfort and improve energy efficiency, without sacrificing one for the other. So we're working to develop a campus comfort plan that does just that.
The graph below is an example of the long-term analyses we do with your TherMOOstat feedback. We take a whole year of everyone's TherMOOstat submissions, and graph them against outside and indoor air temperatures. This analysis yields insights that we wouldn't have been able to confirm without you using TherMOOstat. The graph shows comfort submissions, with comfort type indicated by the color and size indicating the number of votes. The bubbles are placed on the axes based on outside air temperature and corresponding indoor air temperature at the time of the TherMOOstat submission. The insight from the graph tells us a lot of cold and chilly votes occur at outside air temperatures above 95°F, when the indoor room temperature is below 78°F. This suggests some buildings are being overcooled when it is hot outside in the summer.
If we look a little closer at the bottom right quadrant of the graph above, we can see that a lot of these buildings with cold and chilly TherMOOstat feedback are classrooms. The top offenders for potential overcooling are Wellman Hall, Shields Library and Young Hall. These are buildings where a lot of people feel cold and have let us know by using TherMOOstat, it's your feedback in action. We're using your feedback to create new protocols for our controls system, and it's called the Campus Comfort Plan.
To start work on our Campus Comfort Plan, we've started with these classroom buildings where your votes have indicated overcooling in the summer. We've written up an article all about our Classroom Comfort Plan and the solution we proposed to curb overcooling. A campus comfort band will allow the indoor temperature to fluctuate dynamically based on the outdoor temperature, rather than having static set points for heating and cooling all year round.
If you're in an office building or think the Campus Comfort Plan should come to your building next, let us know!