Personal Thermal Management to Reduce Building Energy Consumption Workshop

ARPA-E hosted a workshop entitled “Personal Thermal Management to Reduce Building Energy Consumption” on November 12-13, 2013 in Raleigh, NC. The workshop brought together thought leaders from distinct science, engineering, and industrial communities. Attendees collectively discussed transformational personal thermal management technologies that have the potential to enable a wider temperature set point range for buildings, thereby reducing the energy consumed to heat or cool them, while maintaining or improving personal thermal comfort for building occupants.  

Space heating and cooling of buildings represents more than 12% of all energy used domestically, about 12 Qbtu of energy annually (primary). The electricity usage of commercial and residential buildings accounts for more than 70% of all electricity used in the United States. This represents 40% of our nation's total energy bill, and contributes to almost 40% of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions. The large energy consumption associated with space heating and cooling is primarily driven by the need to provide a comfortable range of temperatures to the building’s occupants. In practice the neutral-band is usually between 71° and 75°F, the temperature range between set points where no action is taken by the building’s heating and cooling systems. If this neutral band can be expanded by as little as 4°F in each direction, over 10% of energy saving is possible, accounting for over 1% of the nation’s energy use.

The specific intent of this workshop was to:

  • Discuss the opportunities for developing personal comfort systems--in particular, advanced clothing and textiles--to enable a wider temperature set point range for buildings while maintaining or improving personal thermal comfort;
  • Review the potential technical approaches to enhancing personal comfort while reducing building energy consumption;
  • Assess gaps in materials, processing and thermal modeling technologies; and
  • Delineate the techno-economic risk factors associated with personal thermal management systems (including thermally adaptable clothing), e.g., transparency to users, cost, durability, energy supply for active solutions, etc. and how can these risk factors can be overcome.

For more details on ARPA-E’s initial framing of the challenge, please refer to a Request For Information that has now closed for submission. 

Proceedings and workshop slides from the meeting are presented below. View the full workshop agenda (pdf).

DAY 1: Introductions

ARPA-E Introduction 

Dr. Eric Rohfling, ARPA-E


Overview of Personal Thermal Management

Dr. Ping Liu, ARPA-E


Building Energy Consumption & HVAC        

Prof. Jim Freihaut, DOE eebHub


The Energy Benefits for Going Local            

Prof. Ed Arens, Berkeley CBE


Human Physiology & Clothing           

Prof. Jintu Fan, Cornell CHE


Modeling Physiology & Thermal Regulation 

Prof. Hui Zhang, Berkeley CBE


Technology Adoption 

Prof. Karen Leonas, NCSU TATM


Tech Adoption Discussion     

Dr. Maurice Gunderson, GenTherm


Attendee quad chart presentations:

-Breakout 1

-Breakout 2

-Breakout 3

-Breakout 4


Breakout Groups


Day 2: Discussions

Breakouts (continued): Building a program pitch

-Breakout 1

-Breakout 2

-Breakout 3

-Breakout 4

Breakout Groups

Breakout Readout: Present program pitches


ARPA-E Program Directors

Closing Discussions: Priority list of technological topics


Dr. Ping Liu, ARPA-E