Human-Building Interaction

Human-IST has recently developed a new research field: Human-Building Interaction (HBI) with the ambition to apply HCI knowledge to the habitat and have a real impact on the way people live and work in buildings. Our main partners in this research field are:

  • Smart Living Lab


    Human-IST has recently developed a new research field: Human-Building Interaction (HBI) with the ambition to apply HCI knowledge to the habitat and have a real impact on the way people live and work in buildings. Human-IST research works on HBI are developed within the Smart Living Lab project, co-funded by the Canton of Fribourg and EPFL in the Bluefactory Innovation Quarter. The goal is to develop innovative interactive technologies, for instance to understand human interactions in the habitats, to better design buildings, to favour behaviour change, to increase inhabitants’ comfort and reduce energy consumption.

    Human-IST collaborators: Denis Lalanne, Julien Nembrini, Hamed Alavi, Himanshu Verma, Raphaël TuorMichael Papinutto

    Partners: UniFr, EPFLHEFR

    Smart Living Lab

  • Comfort: a Coordinate of User Experience in Built Environments

    We study building occupants comfort across its four dimensions (thermal, visual, acoustic, air quality), with a novel perspective that highlights the importance of human’s perception and behavior. We propose a reformulation of the question of comfort that extends its scope from a “quality of built environment” to an “interactive experience of the human occupants”. With this perspective we answer questions that embody the complexity of human experience within the built environment:  what are the elements that influence our perception of comfort? Can awareness have an impact on how we pursue comfort in interaction with built environments? Can the interaction style with the building elements have impact on our comfort? How would artificial intelligence in buildings (building automation systems) change our expectations from and perception of built environments?

    Human-IST Collaborators: Hamed Alavi, Michael PapinuttoDenis Lalanne

    Start date: January 2016

  • Spatiality and User Experience of Hot-desking Offices

    Through a longitudinal study in smart living lab, we have studied the space-use behavior of office workers in two refurbished offices in hot-desking situation. The 3D modeling and evaluation of space design using isovist and space syntax methods, we found correlations between the visual attributes of a workplace and its occupancy rate.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Hamed Alavi, Himanshu VermaDenis Lalanne

    External Collaborators: EPFLAtelier OI

    Start date: January  2016

  • ComfortBox: Learning Personal Comfort in Interaction with Users

    Human-IST has developed an interactive device that measures the environmental conditions, communicates the objective comfort measurements  with the users, receives feedback from them, and learning from the user's feedback tunes its prospective behavior. Comfortbox is equipped with ten indoor environmental sensors that together can create an insight into the indoor thermal, visual, acoustic comfort, and evaluate the quality of air. ComfortBox is intended to make a channel of dialogue between human and building, but also can evaluate indoor condition in relation to the productivity and health of the occupants especially in a long-term.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Hamed AlaviDenis Lalanne

    External Collaborators: Logitech

    Start date: January 2016

  • Smart Living Design Studio

    In collaboration with the architects educators in the school of engineering and architecture in Fribourg (HEIA-FR), we plan to study the learning-by-doing practices in school design studios. Using such context where working, learning, living, resting, socializing often happen at the same place, our attempt is to study a possible future where in general the borders between different activities will be fading. We will first make a thorough understanding of  how different activities are carried out in relation to spatial configurations of the studio. Then, we empower the studio users to analyze their own space-use behavior, find the inefficiencies, and redesign the reevaluate their studio with a rapid pace.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Hamed Alavi, Himanshu VermaDenis Lalanne

    External Collaborators: HEFR

    Start date: January 2018

  • Visual Analytics of Building Data

    Building Management Systems (BMS) are more and more standard building equipment. These senso-motoric systems generate great amounts of data. The aim of this project is to enhance traditional data presentation format such as graphs and tables to support expert users in early open-ended exploration of building data. Visualization prototypes involving established machine learning and interactive data visualization techniques allow expert users  to derive meaningful conclusions in limited time.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Julien Nembrini, Florian EvéquozDenis Lalanne

    Start date: April 2015

  • Insolight

    The goal of the research is to establish a methodology and to develop a test and demonstration platform to measure and assess the benefits of using innovative luminaires from both technical and users’ perspective. The startup Insolight has developed a smart LED panel with the ability to dynamically change its light beam output (direction and intensity). The panel takes the form of a smart luminaire for multi-functional spaces adapting the light beam with the users’ task. The aim is to install, benchmark and test the 4th-generation prototype with real users of the “Halle Bleue”. Ultimately, this project will demonstrate and possibly validate the interest of such a luminaire in an office environment.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Julien NembriniDenis Lalanne

    External Collaborators: Prof. Jérôme Kaempf, School of Engineering and Architecture, Fribourg, Insolight

    Start date: September 2017

  • MUBI Mobile User-Building Interface

    The goal of the project is to propose a mobile interface to interact with a building database, allowing to browse in real-time environmental and energy data gathered by the building sensors, relative to the space occupied by the user. Taking advantage of the mobile platform, it will also augment sensor data by gathering user comfort perception data, in order to analyze correlations between both data streams. In this project, focus is put on the development of a mobile tool with large diffusion potential, in order to allow for its adaptation to different building contexts.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Julien Nembrini, Himanshu Verma, Raphaël TuorDenis Lalanne

    External Collaborators: School of Engineering and Architecture, Fribourg

    Start date: June 2017

  • ELSA Exploration Tool for Sustainable Architecture

    The goal of this project is to build a decision-making tool for architects and engineers. Its main objective is to help and guide the user at the early design stages of the building. This assistance is provided by offering different design alternatives and their relative environmental impact. These impacts are then compared to the 2000-Watt society target values in order to quantify the performance of each design alternative.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Denis LalanneRaphaël Tuor

    External Collaborators: EPFLEPFL+ECAL Lab

    Start date: January 2016


  • Reimagining Artificial Intelligence – Towards Establishing a Sociological Conception of AI
    The current mechanisms that define and drive the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been widely criticized for being tech-oriented and market-led instead of starting from societal needs and challenges. Subsequently, numerous and notable initiatives have been proposed that argue for proactive engagement of various areas of social science in determining how AI should reach our societies. In these proposals, AI projects are still conceptualized within the tech sector while the attempt is to bring knowledge created in social sciences and humanities to the position of informing AI adoption policies.

    In this project, we seek to examine a radically different placement for social sciences in the realm of AI. The broad objective is to capture the constituents and structure of a distinctively sociological conception of AI that is not subordinate to or dependent on the technological trends (e.g. deep learning, pervasive sensing), but rather is grounded solely in the imaginaries of what humans need AI to be. To the interest of clarity, the first step of the project is focused on a specific domain that is highly influenced by the discourses of “smart agenda”– the domain of urbanism. Moreover, we focus our research on the context of European cities.

    Human-IST Collaborators: Hamed AlaviHimanshu Verma, Jakub Mlynar, Andre Ourednic, Farzaneh Bahrami, Nico Mutzer

    Start date: February 2020