News Article
November 29, 2012

Windows Open or Closed? Lessons learned in engaging occupants

Operable windows give building occupants fresh air and control over their comfort – but if used improperly, they can be counterproductive. In this video, Katie Ackerly, a researcher at the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California Berkeley, describes approaches to signaling occupants when to open and close windows.


Interview with Katie Ackerly

Katie Ackerly


Center for the Built Environment

University of California Berkeley

One approach is to use “red light, green light” signals tied to the building control system. A survey found that people tend to ignore these signals: They are busy working at their desks and don’t pay attention unless they are uncomfortable.


In a related research paper, Ackerly and colleagues reported more success in signals that teach occupants the principles of using windows for comfort and linking their use to tangible benefits: For example, “If the outdoor temperature is 80 degrees or higher, opening the windows will make indoor conditions worse,” and “If you let cool air in now, you’ll prevent overheating later.”


The research also suggests making signals visible from workstations. People should understand the signals as reminders of behaviors they already endorse.

November 2012



Human Behavior Meets Building Intelligence: How Occupants Respond to “Open Window” Signals; Katie Ackerly and Gail Brager, University of California- Berkeley, 2012.

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