Human-Building Integration: Occupant Eye Pupil Size-Driven Lighting Control As a Sustainable Indoor Environmental Control Strategy in a Built Environment

EPA Grant Number: SU839276
Title: Human-Building Integration: Occupant Eye Pupil Size-Driven Lighting Control As a Sustainable Indoor Environmental Control Strategy in a Built Environment
Investigators: Choi, Joon-Ho
Institution: University of Southern California
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment


Despite a significant number of control solutions available in the building industry, we are often faced with the challenge of energy waste in buildings and occupants’ dissatisfaction with the indoor environmental quality. A primary obstacle is system-centered control solutions, which make the occupants isolated and passive in the control-loop, rather than using them as a proactive input parameter. To address this challenge, we propose an adaptive human-centered environmental control that would completely transform the building system control paradigm by adopting the human-body as an integrative sensory device in the control-loop. Since power usage for lighting in buildings accounts for more than 30% of the total energy usages in the U.S., this proposed research focuses on developing a human-body integrated automatic lighting control module based on reading a user’s physiological responses (e.g., eye pupil sizes) in real time. The research outcome will enhance fundamental knowledge about and create a novel approach for interpreting physiological signals as applied to building environmental controls, and fill the integrative research gap between building systems and human physiology in the engineering domain. The knowledge and technology to be generated from this proposed project will provide scalable, integrative, and transformative solutions for real-world issues, i.e., people’s wellbeing and environmental sustainability.


The purpose of this project is to develop an individual user’s eye-pupil size data-driven adaptive lighting environmental control module that will accomplish energy savings in a building lighting system operation and cost-effectively control a visual environmental condition. Considering that office buildings’ occupants are not responsible for utility costs and thus tend to be less responsive to the need to conserve energy than in the residential, this project focuses on a workplace in an office building to establish an energy-efficient building environmental control. The following specific research objectives have been established in order to reach this project goal.

1) Understand the relationships between human physiological signals (i.e., pupil size and the ambient environmental condition (i.e., lighting) with consideration of ethnic origins and ages.

2) Develop stochastic models of visual sensations as a function of human physiological signals to be combined with an end-user level lighting environmental control.

3) Integrate the developed stochastic models to enable the deployment of the lighting environmental control in a building energy management system.

4) Evaluate the effect of the human-based lighting systems control on occupants’ visual sensation estimation, and building energy performance.


In order to accomplish the research objective, the team will develop a prototype model of the proposed apparatus with review and input from industry professionals. This prototype model will then be tested in an environmental chamber that will simulate a typical office workstation in which the apparatus is being designed for use. Once the device succeeds in the simulated conditions, the team will then test the apparatus in an office with a computer-based task condition, which is most dominant in the current technology oriented office building. To accomplish the objectives, people with knowledge in relevant areas will be consulted to join the research team. This will include professional researchers including (co-)PIs and undergraduate/graduate students from multidisciplines, including Architecture, Building Science, Ophthalmology, and Electrical, Mechanical, Civil and Engineering, as well as an industry collaborator.

Expected Results:

The final output of this project is a prototype of a lighting control module that can be functioned by a user’s eye pupil dilation and constriction, sensed by a low-cost pupilometer commercially available, in an office workstation setting. The energy-saving potential will be determined by calculating the amount of time in the right conditions to use the proposed control module in a certain type of facilities, i.e., commercial office buildings in this project, and then calculating how much energy a conventional standard guideline-based light condition would use. A survey of a user’s visual sensation and comfort over time will be adopted to determine the effectiveness of the control performance.

Supplemental Keywords:

Green Building, Smart Growth, Smart Control, Energy Efficiency, Visual Comfort, Energy Savings, Sustainability, Carbon Emissions, Smart Buildings, Environmental Comfort