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A New Way to Capture Occupant Well-being

Well-being is a hot topic right now as companies look at ways to improve their staff productivity and creativity in ever increasingly competitive markets.

As part of my PhD research, I have been exploring  the idea of using video data to try to gauge occupant well-being in buildings. The ultimate aim is to integrate this information into a smart building architecture, to help control a building in ways that can maximise occupant well-being and productivity.

My project is taking advantage of recent improvements in emotion recognition softwares and compliment them with other softwares, such as speech and posture detection, to see how they could be used to gauge elements of the well-being of building occupants. These softwares are quite prevalent now and with the incorporation of artificial intelligence and machine learning, some can even recognise emotions better than humans.

An interesting example is the use of the speech recognition software from the University of Texas that proved that a lost play titled ‘Double Falsehood’ was indeed written by William Shakespeare. Using these softwares to gauge occupant well-being could allow the Building Management System (BMS) to proactively change environmental conditions within a building (such as temperature or CO2) with the objective of maximising occupant well-being, productivity, and creativity, rather than minimising energy use. Additionally, it could be used to create a database of evidence for ‘design for well-being’ which is currently lacking.


As part of this research project, I am spending four weeks at BRE in Watford to further my understanding of existing methods of capturing well-being and also get more involved with the Biophilic Office project, as well as generally learning more about what BRE do. So far I have attended various meetings, ranging in issues from sustainable shop fit-outs to an Innovation Park in Chile and even an interesting new start-up. This has given me a new perspective on my own research, both from how to convince office inhabitants to take part in the research but also on how it may be commercialised at the end of my PhD.

The Biophilic Office project is quite unique, bring several partners and products together to test in real life their effect on office occupants. This expected change in the well-being of the occupants provides a perfect case study for my own research. Capturing this change using traditional methods will help to validate the evidence collected by the cameras and therefore calibrate them against existing metrics. The result, if it works, will be a new well-being sensor that brings with it an increased quality of data for capturing the well-being of building occupants.