There’s a silent conflict happening right now all across the country, a perpetual struggle with combatants plotting and planning to gain dominance over their neighbors on a daily basis. It can get ugly quickly—this battle for the workplace thermostat.
Building Robotics, an Oakland, California team believes their new hardware and app system may quell this common conflict over interior temperature settings, easing the sweat and shivers often present in shared workplaces using a combination of hardware monitoring and user/group accountability. Think of Comfy as a behavioral group thermostat system.
Comfy installs into a building’s existing digital HVAC controls (Building Management System), allowing users to then use an app to request ‘Warm my Space’ or ‘Cool my Space’. This same app is able to pinpoint location of each user and tallies submitted votes for either more warmth or cooling in relation to their zone, adjusting HVAC controls in accordance to the majority’s wishes (pity the lone shivers/sweat prone anomaly amongst the group) in increments of 10 minutes.
Over time the Comfy system recognizes usage patterns, automatically adjusting for optimal comfort (not unlike the residential the tado° residential AC system). But it’s Building Robotics’s group voting solution which transforms one-setting-fits-all settings into the thermostat equivalent of live voting on a reality show.
Building Robotics CEO Andrew Krioukov explains the psychology behind a group-operated temperature system:
“As a Comfy user, your usage is visible to your colleagues. This encourages good communication and civility between colleagues who share a zone. Anytime there are differing opinions in a zone, we put the zone in a holding pattern for 10 minutes. In larger zones, we can enable a feature where, upon making a request, a user is asked to get an additional person sitting nearby to agree with them before we supply their requested stream of air.”
Note, Comfy does not provide micro-targeted temperature adjustments specific for individual users, so don’t put away that Hello Kitty blanket, heater at your feet, or portable fan on your desk just quite yet. There will undoubtedly be temperature outlier casualties in this Lord of the Flies, majority rules environment. But in providing a system to allow workplace occupants to request cooling and heat to specific zones strewn throughout the whole of a workplace, offices, studios, and other shared spaces should see a boost in productivity due to overall improved comfort, more inter-office communication, alongside lower energy bills since air conditioning or heating would not be left on all of the time, the reason behind extreme temperatures in offices today.
Building Robotics cites promising results from their current pilot programs at Johnson Controls and UC Berkeley, with plans to expand contracts out to additional building management clients with their recent infusion of investment.