Let the breeze in

Dr. Nari Yoon

How many windows do you have in your home? Have you ever wanted to cool your room with the feel of natural breeze but then closed off all your windows because of the heat waves and smoke from the wildfires? Just as we’re stuck at home due to this pandemic, we’re now stuck with air conditioners. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, the growth of cooling energy use is the fastest in buildings. Could we then use this capricious natural ventilation as a reliable cooling source?

I think of two groups of people: the first group is the architects. For architects to design a naturally ventilated building, they need to predict the thermal consequences of material properties, window placements, climates, and many more, which are computationally and practically challenging. The second group of people is YOU. For the residents or occupants like yourselves, knowing when to open which windows, and not having a cat who tries to escape all the time, are critical in making natural ventilation a successful strategy.

My research aims to find the relationship among various characteristics of buildings and occupants to predict the cooling effectiveness of natural ventilation. With that I can help architects design high-performing buildings, and occupants make the most of natural ventilation.

While architects experiment with countless design plans and models, I’ve proposed a computational methodology that intervenes in their design process, connecting it to building simulations and complex calculations, so it can inform the architects on how their design decision influences the cooling performance, and ultimately assisting in a better design outcome.

Now that the building is designed, it’s time for the occupants to operate the windows as intended. I and my colleagues at the Berkeley lab try to encourage them to use the smart technologies by analysing the unique features of their own house and by offering guidance to an easy and intelligent operation. Imagine that you make the room comfortable by harnessing the free cooling of natural ventilation, which is automated by your smart home. You pay less, keep yourselves comfortable, and save energy and the earth.

Building science is science where humans live in it. I continue my research in cultivating a sustainable, smart and experiential living environment.