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Impact of Furniture on the Energy Consumption of

Commercial Buildings
Proma Chakraborty
Electrical and Electronics Enginneering
Manipal Institute of Technology

AbstractThe consumption of energy is rapidly growing glob- on energy per year on an average.[7]
ally leading to the depletion of energy resources and a negative More than 70% of the energy distribution of a commercial
environmental impact. Electricity and natural gas accounts for building belongs to HVAC systems which is heating and
about 93% of the total energy consumed in a building.Typically
nearly 70% of the total energy use of a building can be credited to cooling. The average efficiency of the any system depends on
space heating, water heating, lighting, and cooling all combined the thermal mass of the building. In most scenarios the rooms
[1]. The large consumption translates to a cost of more than are usually designed as empty. However the surface area of the
$30,600 per year [2]. Reducing the run time of the HVAC systems furniture and the material of the floor covering should have a
of a commercial building will enable cost and resource savings. noticeable effect. A study has shown that existence of furniture
This paper analyses how furniture design impacts the energy
consumption of a building. As furniture in a commercial building will reduce the performance of the floor heating by 30% [8].
occupies more than 50% of the volume of the room, a larger It also important to take into account the material of the floor
amount of energy is required to heat or cool the room due to the and the wall. Energy consumption increases with carpet floors
thermal mass of the material of the furniture.This paper focuses versus wooden or laminated floors. The insulation thickness
to bring out the difference in time taken to heat or cool a room of the wall needs to be taken into account for validation of
with and without furniture, thus highlighting the difference of
run time of the HVAC systems. The simulations conducted in the heating system and HVAC unit [9].
Energy2D [3] bring out the differences in run time by reducing Thus the cover material of the furniture and flooring are
the surface area of furniture. Thus bringing out a method of important factors that influence efficiency of the HVAC system
reducing energy consumption and running cost, resulting in lower [10].This paper will bring out the results of the importance of
damage to the environment. reduction of furniture surface area in a commercial building
Keywords: Energy Consumption, Commercial Building, to build an energy efficient system.
HVAC, Furniture Design
In order to show the impact of furniture design on the energy
In North America up to the year 2012 the number of com- consumption of the building. A sample model of a room is
mercial buildings are around 5,557,000.The commercial sector taken and simulations are conducted in Energy2D.
alone consumes 1726 trillion Btu from electricity according to
Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), A. Room Models
U.S. Energy Information Administration.The principal build- The room taken into account is considered to have a floor
ing activity is office, followed by warehouse and storage. space of 110 x 110 m with the height to be of 3 metres. The
The buildings were mostly constructed in the time period of dimensions of the room are according to the dimensions of an
1980 to 2000. The same study indicates that the majority average office building [11].The thickness of each wall is taken
source of this electricity is from natural gas[4]. There is a as 0.20 m.The walls are adjacent to each other. The dimensions
colossal capacity to reduce energy consumption in new and old are given according to the International Building Code,which
commercial buildings. Over 30% of the energy consumed in was developed by International Code Council. It is a detailed
commercial buildings is attenuated and this is according to the building code that establishes the minimum regulations for
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The large consumption building systems.This code is a crucial tool to preserve public
of energy is also the cause of more than 18% of the U.S carbon health and safety. It is to prevent the hazards associated with
dioxide emissions [5]. An average of over 17.3 kilowatt-hours the built environment. The International Building Code is used
(kWh) of electricity is used in office buildings in the U.S. [6]. in around 50 states in the US, the District of Columbia,New
Considering commercial energy costs as $0.10 per kWh and York City, Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and
$0.98 per hundred f t3 . The approximate cost of power (P) per the U.S. Virgin Islands.
f t2 for any office building is around $1.73 for electricity. For The room is well insulated the building standard is accord-
an average office building in the United States. (approximately ing to the IBC [12].Hence the walls are well insulated and
15,000 f t2 i.e 1395 m2 ), that equates to about $30,600 spent follow Type 2 construction [13].Type 2 construction is a kind
TABLE I 0.2 m between each cubicle The total surface area exposed of
T HERMAL P ROPERTIES OF L IGHTWEIGHT C ONCRETE . each furniture cubicle is calculated and considered to be the
area of the furniture. The carpet area is considered to be the
Thermal Conductivity Thermal Diffusivity Specific Heat Capacity
remaining area from the total floor space.
0.2092 W/m-K 3.3523107 m2 /s 657J/Kg-K
C. Simulation
The simulation is done in a scaled down room of the
TABLE II measurements given above. They have been carried out using
T HERMAL P ROPERTIES OF VACUUM I NSULATION PANEL . the Energy2D software. Energy2D is an interactive and visual
simulation program.It enables the simulation of all the three
Thermal Conductivity Thermal Diffusivity Specific Heat Capacity heat transfer modes, which is convection,conduction and radi-
0.0028 W/m-K 1.26108 m2 /s 837J/Kg-K ation.In the conduction mode the heat transfer is remarkably
accurate in the software. External factors like atmospheric
temperature and pressure are assumed to be from coastal
California. The outside temperature is taken according to the
F URNISHINGS DATA . average temperature of coastal California [16], which is 24
degrees celsius.
Room Floor Type Area of Furniture Area of Exposed Carpet The following are the models of the room:
Room 1 Carpet 8460m2 4000m2
Room 2 Carpet 11136m2 784m2

of construction which is usually found in new buildings. It is

also found in various remodels of commercial structures. The
walls and the roofs are made from non-combustible materials.
The top of the roofs are usually covered with lightweight
concrete, an insulated membrane, foam or a combination of
these materials. In this particular model the room is considered Fig. 1. Room 1
to have concrete walls and floors and the roof is a vacuum
insulated panel. The walls have the thermal properties of light concrete from
Table 1 gives the properties of lightweight concrete. the above table and the ceiling is made of vacuum insulated.
Lightweight concrete is chosen according to the International The fan speed is set to 4m/s as this is the average speed
Building Code. It can be used in all kinda of weather. It required for cooling while taking into account the moisture
has proven to not pose problems with respect to freezing and in the room. The average efficiency of the motor is around
thawing. The use of lightweight concrete can reduce the cost 70% [17] .The ground is considered to be carpet.
of building by 30%.
Table 2 gives the thermal properties of the vacuum insulated
panel. Vacuum insulated panels are flat elements. These panels
consist of an open porous core material. This is so that it
can withstand the external atmospheric pressure. The most
important part of the vacuum insulated panel is the envelope
which plays a key role for the upkeep of the vacuum found
in the interior of the panel. Polymer laminate is a frequent
material for the envelope , it contains metallised polymers or
aluminium foils as the boundary layer. They play an important
role in floor heating systems [14].
Fig. 2. Room 2
B. Furnishings
For Room 2, the walls and the ground have the same
In this paper two cases have been taken to account. Each properties as Room1 however the area of surface area is
case consists of a room where the floor is carpeted. The area increased by 37%.
of furniture of one room is lower than the other. Table 3 gives
the data of the areas. D. Performance and Testing Data
The height is taken to be 1 m. In Room 2 the furniture The topmost thermometer is denoted as T1.
is considered to be in cubicles of 4.8 m each with a gap of The middle thermometer is denoted as T2.
The bottom thermometer most is denoted as T3.
All temperatures measured are in celsius.

Taking the point of reference as thermometer 2 as it

measures the average temperature of the room, the rate of
temperature drop is higher for room 1. It is observed that the
time taken to reach a temperature of 15 degrees celsius is 2
hours in room 1 and to reach the same temperature in room 2
is around 4 hours. Thus reducing the work of the motor by 3
hours.This proves that the surface area of the furniture affects
the time taken for heating or cooling.
Further analysis can be done from the graphs of room 1 and
room 2.
The graphs are given as follows:
The above graphs show the differences in time taken cool
the system. The temperature drop is more significant in room
1 than in room2, where the temperature drop is gradual. For
example to reach 16 degree celsius the time taken from the
graph of room 1 is approximately 0.0005 and for room 2 is
approximately 0.0014. (The unit of time is in days).
Fig. 3. Graph of Room 1
E. Calculations
Energy Consumption per year = 408,735 KWh
Cost of 1KWh = $ 0.102

If the system is run for 24 hours every day; total cost =

408,735 x 0.102 = $ 41,690.97

If the system is run for 20 hours every day; total cost =

(408,735/8760) x 20 x 365 x 0.102 = $ 34,742.475

Total savings = $ 41,690.97 - $ 34,742.475 = $6947.25

To conclude there are very distinct differences in between
the thermal behaviours of room 1 and room 2. Thus proving
that the HVAC system runs for a longer duration to cool
a room with furniture having a larger surface area. This
brings up the importance of furniture design in a commercial
Fig. 4. Graph of Room 2
The total energy consumption of an office building per
year is 408,735 KWh (calculated from [19]). It has been
calculated that reducing the run time of the HVAC system, R EFERENCES
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