Personal heating and lighting zones will follow workers around the office

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Using a mobile app, individuals will be able to set their preferred conditions

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Architect studio Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) is fitting out an office building with sensors so that its lighting and heating will be automatically adjusted in real-time according to the needs of its occupants. Not only will "Office 3.0" provide a convenient approach to comfort, but it could significantly reduce energy use.

"Today, a lot of energy is wasted heating or cooling empty buildings," says CRA founder Carlo Ratti. "By synchronizing energy usage and human occupancy within buildings we can create a more sustainable and responsive architecture – theoretically slashing energy consumption by up to 40 percent."

Office 3.0 isn't CRA's first foray into the Internet of Things. Its recently designed Lift-Bit modular seating system allows users to adjust the height of individuals modules using their smartphone. Like the Lift-Bit, Office 3.0 allows the building environment to be tailored to the needs of individuals.

Located at the Agnelli Foundation headquarters in Torino, Italy, the system will be based on data gathered from occupancy level, temperature and CO2 concentration sensors installed around the building. A building management system will then adjust the lighting, heating, air-conditioning and room booking options as required.

Using a mobile app, individuals will be able to set their preferred temperature. An internal positioning system, which CRA describes as being similar to GPS, will then track users as they move around the building and tailor the environment. CRA characterizes the effect as being like a "thermal bubble" following individuals around.

When the system recognizes that a room has been vacated, it will set the room conditions to a standby mode, which will help to save energy. It will also learn the needs of the building's occupants over time and set conditions as are typically required at particular times and locations.

In addition to automatically adjusting the conditions inside the building, the system will provide insights into the occupancy of different rooms over time. This information will then inform how the office can be reconfigured when required. Movable glass walls, sound-absorbing curtains and foldable partitions are included in the design for this specific purpose and will make it possible to change a large open space into a series of small meeting rooms, with temperature control in each room possible.

CRA says the system will be open and that anyone will be able to develop apps and software to extend its functionality in different ways. Work is due to begin today and the renovation is expected to be complete early next year.

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