TemperTantrum@UM - Room temperature reports at University of Maryland
There are some classrooms on campus that are known for often being too hot in the winter or too cold during the summer. This means that the University is using more energy than needed to heat or cool these rooms. We are proposing to create a system where students and faculty members can send live reports about whether or not a particular classroom is too warm or too cold.
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Quite often on the University of Maryland campus you might hear people complain about the uncomfortable temperatures in particular classrooms: usually it is too hot or too cold. The Classroom Design Manual  at the university advises that temperatures in the rooms are maintained within 68-75 Fahrenheit, since numerous studies have shown that students and office workers tend to perform better in such conditions [8, 9]. However, these suggestions are not always followed and sometimes even when they are, students and faculty still experience discomfort in the class.
Frequently, issues arise when the temperature inside the rooms drastically differ from the temperature outside the building. While in the winter this is not quite an issue, during the hot and humid days of the summer it quite often is; upon entering an air conditioned building, the body experiences a stress caused by a sudden temperature drop. An abrupt change can have various harmful effects particularly on those with sinus problems [2,3]. Besides being just a health and performance issue, an excessive use of air conditioning is also an unnecessary consumption of energy. It will be advantageous for the University to find the golden mean in the air conditioning and heating use that will make more people feel comfortable in the classrooms on campus and which will require less resources.
The idea behind our project is to provide a system that will accept complaints about the uneasy classroom temperatures from campus community members, accumulate the data sets for particular rooms or buildings, and produce chart reports that will indicate, when and where many people have experienced inconveniences. Such reports can then be used by the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning System (HVAC) staff to identify the patterns in the complaints and adjust the temperatures accordingly. Even though no approach can make everyone on campus happy with the room conditions, with our system we will at least try to bring comfort to more people and reduce the carbon footprint of our campus.
With such ideas in the core of the project, we will design the system for two classes of users. The first class of users is the students and faculty members who will be reporting on the rooms' temperatures. Our interface will depend heavily on this group for the input and data. The second class of users will be the HVAC staff, who will monitor our web reports on the temperature conditions in the various rooms and will take appropriate steps to fix the issues.
We will advertise our system as a way for the students and staff to voice their complaints about the thermal discomfort in the classrooms across the campus. We will also try to collaborate with the HVAC department to ensure that they view the reports from our system and accordingly take action. Knowing that the complaints will be heard and responded to, campus community members will be inspired to provide input to our system.
Here is the proposed set of interactions of the user with the system. Suppose a student attends a class on a particular day and is uncomfortable. Or perhaps the student consistently experiences discomfort caused by the room being too hot or too cold. They can then submit the information about that room to our web based interface as soon as they get to a computer with internet access. Unfortunately, submission of the report on the website is complicated by two factors. First, quite often people lose motivation for registering complaints once they are out of the uncomfortable environment. Second, the user will most likely be filling out the form away from the classroom, which means that at the time he or she might not remember the building name, room number, or time. The first issue can be solved by allowing submissions through a mobile device. The second one can be solved by providing the users with an option of just specifying the class number, section, and day if necessary (e.g. CMSC434 on Thursday). Additionally, all the input forms will have an auto-complete functionality to prevent errors.
Submission through a mobile device will have a much simpler interface that will include two options: either through a text message to a designated number (or email) or a web form adjusted for a smaller screen and other restrictions of a cell phone. The text message with the complaint will be kept simple and will only require the user to type "hot" or "cold" and specify the building name (the whole name or just the code) and the room number. The user will make a submission from the classroom itself, so the building name and the room number will be available and the text message delivery time stamp can then be used as a time reference of when the room temperature was uncomfortable.
The HVAC staff will have their own set of interactions with the system. They will view the system reports as an ordered list of charts for the various rooms that people complained about. The room's priority in the list will be determined by the number of the reports it gets and weighted by the bias of the ranking (for example, if there were an equal number of "hot" and "cold" reports, the room will be toward the bottom of the list). We assume the work context for the staff users to be part of the usual facilities maintenance work day. The task for the staff is simple. All they will do is view the list to see which rooms need the temperature adjustments and if possible, dispatch a technician to take care of it. If the issue cannot be easily resolved, then at least for future reference the HVAC department would mark the buildings and rooms that should have a priority for the renovation. Currently, we are also thinking of a way to allow the facilities department to indicate that they have looked into a problem with a particular room or building and either fixed it or could not for whatever reason (which would be specified).
Scenario 1. Submission via a web based form.
A faculty member enters a complaint about the room temperature via an online form.
Step 1: Navigate to our website. The "Report a room" form will be on the main page, since this is the most frequent task.
Step 2: In the form's "Temperature" field choose between "Too warm" or "Too cold".
Step 3: In the "Building" field start typing the building name or code. Auto-complete functionality will provide possible options for the entry that match the typed text. Choose an appropriate option.
Step 4: In the "Room number" field start typing the number. Auto-complete functionality will provide possible options for the entry that match the typed text. Choose an appropriate option.
Step 5: In the "Date and time" field choose the time of the day ("Morning", "Afternoon", "Evening") that you were in the room, as well as the date. By the default, the date will be set to the current date, since we expect most users to submit the complaints the same day as the experience the discomfort in the classroom.
Step 6: Submit the form.
Scenario 2. Submission via a mobile version of the web based form. A student enters a complaint about the room temperature via cell phone.
Step 1: Navigate to our website on the mobile web browser. The "Report a room" form will be visible in the span of the screen.
Step 2: In the form's "Temperature" field choose between "Too warm" or "Too cold".
Step 3: In the "Building" field select a building name from a drop-down menu of all the buildings on campus.
Step 4: In the "Room number" field enter the room number.
Step 5: Submit the form.
Scenario 3. Submission via a text message from a mobile device.
A student enters a complaint about the room temperature via a text message from a cell phone.
Step 1: Navigate to the "New message" form on the device.
Step 2: In the "To" field enter a number associated with our system (or email).
Step 3: In the "Text" field enter "warm" or "cold"*, continued with a space, a building name or code, another space, and a room number.
Step 4: Send the message.
- Entries like "too hot", "too cold", "hot" will be correctly recognized too.
Scenario 4. Supervision of the reports generated by the set of submitted complaints.
Facility staff member checks the statistics of the temperature reports.
Step 1: Navigate to our website. To the side of the "Report a room" form, the charts associated with the most "active"* rooms will be displayed.
Step 2: Click the "More" link below the displayed charts to navigate to the "View reports" page.
Step 3: A list of the charts associated with the most "active" rooms is displayed. The higher the room is in the list, the higher its priority is.
Step 4: Copy the information about the rooms with the highest priority and if those issues were not yet looked at, notify an HVAC technician to investigate a problem and possibly fix it.
- Active room - room with the most number of recent complaints that form a trend: either "too warm" or "too cold".
1. Classroom design manual. Guidelines for designing, constructing, and renovating instructional spaces at the University of Maryland. Office of Information Technology, University of Maryland, http://www.oit.umd.edu/tc/UM_Classroom_Design.pdf. November 2000. Accessed on September 30, 2008.
This is a manual that provides an instruction on the best ways to design and construct classrooms, including a set of guidelines to be used in the University of Maryland. Specifically, it mentions the average temperatures that should be maintained in the rooms.
2. Air conditioning and your health. Dr Rubaiul Murshed. The Daily Star, http://thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=56704. September 27, 2008. Accessed on September 29, 2008.
This discusses various negative health effects of the use of air conditioning in the buildings.
3. The role of allergic rhinitis in nasal responses to sudden temperature changes. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0091-6749/PIIS0091674906013923.pdf. November, 2006. Accessed on September 29, 2008.
4. Thermal Comfort for Office Work. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/thermal_comfort.html. 23 October 2007. Accessed on 29 September 2008.
This website provides answers to common questions about standards on office temperature, humidity, etc., according to CSA. These standards also happen to be the same as recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
5. Chorus Swells: Closed Doors Save Energy: [Metropolitan Desk]. Clyde Haberman. New York Times (June 24, 2008), p. B.1., http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1499387791&sid=3&Fmt=3&clientId=41143&RQT=309&VName=PQD. Retrieved September 29, 2008 from New York Times database.
This article is a complaint about how NYC business owners and corporations waste energy by leaving their doors open and blasting their air-conditioning out onto the street, or unnecessarily blasting the AC or heat in office buildings.
6. Joe Klein. Kill you air conditioner. Time, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1818028,00.html. June 25, 2008. Accessed on September 28, 2008.
The author discusses the role of the air conditioning in the energy consumption of the United States.
7. Ambient Environment: Thermal Conditions/Health & Performance. Cornell University Ergonomics Web, http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA350notes/Thermal/thperfnotes.html. Accessed on September 28, 2008.
This describes the effects of the thermal conditions on the health and performance.
8. Temperature and office work performance. Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Resource Bank, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, http://eetd.lbl.gov/ied/sfrb/performance-temp-office.html. Accessed on September 28, 2008.
This discusses the influence of the indoor air temperatures on the objective work performance in the offices.
9. Temperature and school work performance. Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Resource Bank, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, http://eetd.lbl.gov/ied/sfrb/performance-temp-school.html.
This article discusses influence of temperature on schoolwork performance and learning.
The structure of our system is quite basic. The two main parts of it are the form for a temperature report and the list of the charts for the reported rooms. Both components are accessible from the web page and are located in two different tabs (Fig. 1). The users can switch between them depending on their needs.
The very first screen that the users see when they come to our website is shown in Fig. 1 and contains a form to enter a temperature report about a specific room. The majority of the users coming to our website will be professors and students who experienced uncomfortable temperatures in their classroom and would like to report it. For this reason, it is very important that these users do not have to navigate through multiple screens before they finally find the complaint form. That is why the form will be immediately available to them for the data entry.
In addition to the complaint form, the main page contains the charts for the three rooms with the highest priorities in our system. For the students and faculty users, graphs serve as an example of how their reports will be used in our system. For the users from the facilities group, charts on the main page function as a shortcut for determining the rooms, which should be looked at first. The link “View more..” below the three charts takes the user to the “View Statistics” tab of the site.
Reporting A Room
The form is made out of three main parts (Fig. 2). The first part is located at the top and allows users to specify whether they were "Too Hot” or “Too Cold” via radio buttons. The temperature field is located at the top of the form, since it is the most important part. The two choices “Too Hot” and “Too Cold” are highlighted in red and blue to allow the users to associate the colors with the temperature of the room and make their choice without even having to reading the text. The next two parts of the form are used to get the information from the users about when and where they experienced the thermal discomfort. Since these two pieces of the information are equally important, they are located adjacent to one another, but both below the temperature report.
The “Where?” section requires to specify the building name and the room number for the place, where the user has experienced the thermal discomfort. Instead of completing these fields directly, the user also can just enter the number of the class (i.e. “CMSC434” or “MATH401 0101” if there are several sections for the class) that was held in that location and then the text inputs for the Building and Room will be automatically filled in for the user.
The fields for the class, building name, and room number will all have an auto-complete feature to prevent errors and shorten the typing time for the user. Since classes have multiple sections and sometimes lectures meet in different rooms than discussions, the format of the auto-complete for classes will contain the class code, section number, indicate the meeting time and whether it is a discussion or not (Fig. 3). For example, CMSC412 0101 (MW 11:00am-11:50am) DIS.
The auto-complete feature for the Building will recognize full name entries (Fig, 4), i.e. “Computer Science Instructional Center” and will show all the available options matching the text that the user has typed so far.
The “When?” section contains the entries for both Date and Time. The Date field will automatically display today’s date, but as soon as the user moves the cursor to the field, a calendar picker will pop up below it (Fig. 5). The user can then just select a particular date by clicking on it on the calendar.
For the time, users will enter the hour, minute, and then choose either AM or PM. The hour and minute fields are auto-complete. For the hour, the options are 1, 2, 3, …, 12 and for the minute the options are restricted to 00, 15, 30, and 45, since these are the only times when classes start on the UM campus.
The user can clear all the fields in the form by pressing the “Clear button” or send the report by clicking on the “Submit” button.
Viewing Room Statistics
The tab “View Statistics” displays the charts for the reported rooms sorted by the room’s priority (Fig. 6). When this tab is displayed on the page, the section with three charts for the rooms with the highest priorities is redundant and therefore will not be visible.
An example of a typical chart used in the “View Statistics” tab is shown in Fig. 7. The title is the number of the room that the chart refers to. The X-axis shows the dates for the last 5 work days, since we want to display only the latest activity. The Y-axis reflects the number of people who reported on the room.
The chart displays three types of information: the number of people who reported “Too Hot” (red line), the number of people who reported “Too Cold” (blue line), and the total of these two (yellow bars). The line (blue or red) that lies closer to the top of the yellow bars indicates what the majority of the people have said about the room. For example, in Fig. 7, the blue line is far above the red line, which means that the majority of the people claimed that the room was too cold.