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Surprising Science

Heating And Cooling People Instead Of Buildings

By using infrared beams of warmth to target people as they walk through an open space, MIT scientists are challenging conventional thinking about indoor climate control. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Earlier this year, scientists at MIT’s Senseable City Lab performed an experiment in which they installed three infrared beams at the university’s main entrance — a large open space — and, with the help of cameras and sensors, used them to target and deliver warmth to individuals as they walked through the space. It was part of an ongoing project, “Local Warming,” that, according to Senseable director Carlo Ratti, asks the question: “Can we use technology in order to put the energy where the people are?”

What’s the Big Idea?

A significant amount of energy in the US goes towards heating and cooling buildings, and it’s often done on a larger scale than may be necessary. The Nest smart thermostat represents the kind of personalized climate control technology that Ratti and his colleagues want to see deployed in larger spaces. They say that doing so could save up to 50 percent of the energy currently used for whole-site heating and cooling. The project is an early first step, and there are lots of challenges to overcome — such as targeted cooling — but, says Ratti, “What we’re trying to do…is explore different futures.”

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Read it at The Atlantic Cities


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