Human Building Interaction

Denis Lalanne
Julien Nembrini
Pierre Vanhulst

Goals for Computer science students

The goal of the seminar for computer science master students is to review the domain of "Human Building Interaction". Human Building Interaction aims at designing interactive building systems and the corresponding human-machine interfaces, and at evaluating them with inhabitants. The major goals of this multidisciplinary domain (informatics, psychology, sociology, design) are to improve the quality of life of residents, reduce energy consumption, and increase social and energy awareness.

Another objective of this seminar is to develop skills in reading, writing and reviewing academic papers. In this context, students will be asked to write and present a state of the art of a sub-domain of the "Human Building Interaction" research field. Sub topics such as user interfaces for home automation (studying various level of automation), building/neighborhood visualization (energy, activities) to increase awareness, and multimodal telepresence to limit long distance movements, will be addressed in this context.

Each student will be asked to choose a theme within the domain, select state-of-the-art references relevant to the chosen thematic, synthesize these references and present them orally in a presentation during one of the final seminar sessions, and synthesize the selected bibliographic references in a written report, of 4 pages, authored in LaTeX following ACM Strict format.

Proposed sub-topics and bibliographic references

  1. Comfort models: definitions and measures - Taking into account the user in designing an energy efficient building requires a model of what is a user. Such an abstraction of the actual users has implications on the range of acceptible technologies to maintain comfort as well as an influence on the preformance really achieved.
  2. Models of behaviour interaction with building automation - Many energy-efficient strategies include the use of moveable parts on the building envelope, such as windows, blinds, etc. Alternatives to complete automation require the understanding of user behaviours. Some studies have proposed models of behaviour based on datasets of user interactions with the dynamic elements of the building.   
  3. Interfaces for behaviour change - Many examples of information feedback from data gathered through energy meters (mostly electricity) have been proposed in the past few years. Which dimensions of energy usage make sense to represent to the user and what kind of impact has such strategy in terms of behavioural change?  
  4. Visualisation of building data - The dynamics of buildings is made of strongly interrelated systems. For instance, air quality depends on user presence and activity, and can be influenced by adequate ventilation strategies, which in turn have an impact on energy consumption. Or the use of blinds to control glare may imply tunring the lights on, increasing indoor power consumption and internal heat gains, possibly leading to overheating. Allowing the user to gain an independant understanding of the complexity may go through adequate visualization of building data.
  5. Smart Grid, Smart Homes and user interfaces -  With the ability to network appliances and energy systems, the possibility to optimally control energy usage and indoor comfort through building automation has led to the concepts of smart home and smart grid. On the demand side, the home reacts autonomously to environmental change (seen in a large sense), while on the supply side, the energy grid informs about cost and availability of energy.  The role of the user in this vision needs to be questioned/defined/criticised.  
  6. Telepresence
  7. Methods to assess light, space and object perception

Reference articles

You can download the reference articles for your seminar here. The password will be communicated in class.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the seminar, students will know how to do a bibliographic research and how to write a scientific article. Further, they will know what is "Human Building Interaction" and the current techniques and trends, and will deepen their knowledge on a particular subtopic.


The following joint sessions are planned in room PER21 F205 at 9.15am:

  • 19.02.2015 : start of the seminar and introduction
  • 26.02.2015 : General Theory about Energy Management and introduction of sub-topics
  • 16.04.2015: Presentation of topic and bibliography (5 min)
  • 29.05.2015: Final presentation and poster session

In addition, 1 independent sessions is planned for computer science students in room PER21 A403 at 10am:

  • 05.03.2015: Human-Building Interaction and assignment of topics

Consultation can be arranged individually.


For computer science students please contact Prof. Dr. Denis Lalanne ( as soon as possible. The number of students is limited.


The EPFL, EIA Fribourg and UniFR are entering a team in the Solar Decathlon Challenge 2016 – a highly prestigious international competition – to design and build a fully operational solar powered house that solves difficult energy problems currently confronting society.  Would you like to be part of this ground breaking competition?

This challenge is about more than just building a better energy efficient house. It’s about rethinking and redefining the place we call home – how we work, eat, drink, shop, grow up, grow old, create communities, and above all, how we can thrive as a society in the future. This is a chance for you to wipe the slate clean and imagine a more sustainable form of urban life! 

Anyone interested can join the team!

The UniFR will contribute in the field of legal, technological and economical aspects to solve the upcoming challenges. Furthermore, cooperation among those three disciplines will create new solutions to contribute in the decathlon but also to support the change within the energy sector.

A necessary contribution is expected from the today’s consumer. The future consumer will produce their electricity, will take responsibility, and will influence the network stability through decision making. A consumer will become a so called “prosumer”. Such a decentralised structure postulates a different management principal and shifts from a single energy supply to a neighbourly energy supply, also called “Crowd Energy”. Crowd Energy “is the collective effort of individuals or profit/non-profit organizations, or both, pooling their resources through online ICT-applications, to help implementing the energy turnaround. This implies both, the concept of decentralization (production, storage and consumption of renewable electricity) and a substantial change in society, economy and politics.”

General goals of the seminar

The goal of the course is the ideation and development around the topic “Crowd Energy – living in the future”. There are three dimensions which will be investigated:

  • Legal questions about the subjects of neighbourly collaboration, new technologies (e.g. smart metering), contracting and more
  • Human Building Interaction. Development of interaction and visualisation technologies for the human-machine communication to improve awareness, handling and more
  • Solving economic and social aspects of “Crowd Energy”, e.g. mental accounting, incentives, and more.

About Solar Decathlon

Like any decathlon, the Solar Decathlon is a contest with ten disciplines. But unlike its athletic variant, the Solar Decathlon caters to students in architecture, engineering, sciences, and design, asking them to design a full-scale, fully functional, comfortable, and sustainable urban dwelling, powered entirely by the sun. But its about more than just solar power. The teams will also be evaluated in ten areas including architecture, energy efficiency, sustainability, urban design, and public outreach.

Solar Decathlon in France 2014

Person in charges

Prof. Dr. Denis Lalanne and Dr Julien Nembrini (Human Centered Interaction Science and Technology)

Prof. Dr. Stephanie Teufel (Chair Management of Information and Communication Technology; international institute of management in technology (iimt))

Prof. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Zufferey (Institut du droit de la construction)

Mario Gstrein (Chair Management of Information and Communication Technology)

2015, Spring