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  1. Abstract

    Recent advances in energy technologies, policies, and practices have accelerated the global rate of improvements in energy efficiency, bringing the energy targets identified in the 2030 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Agenda within reach. However, Target 7.3 requires this rate to double by 2030, demanding a more substantial response to energy interventions. At present, energy interventions are failing to reach optimal levels of adoption in buildings, which are the largest urban energy consumers. This is due to a combination of direct and indirect effects generally referred to as the energy efficiency gap. Here, we compare over 18.8 million positional records of individuals against Greater London’s buildings energy consumption records over the course of one year. We demonstrate that indirect (i.e., spillover) effects, arising fromrecurrent mobility, govern the diffusion of urban buildings’ energy efficiency, far outpacing direct effects. This has been understood as a consequence of underlying spatiotemporal dependencies at the intersection of energy use and social interactions. We add to this the critical role of recurrent mobility (i.e., the mobility of those urban populations who repeatedly visit certain locations, such as home and work) as a diffusion conduit. These findings suggest that in order to improve the current levels of adoption, interventions must target times and locations that function as dense hubs of energy consumption and social interactions. Recurrent mobility thus provides a viable complement to existing targeted intervention approaches aimed at improving energy efficiency, supporting efforts to meet the UN’s 2030 energy targets.

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  2. Reinforcement learning (RL) methods can be used to develop a controller for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that both saves energy and ensures high occupants’ thermal comfort levels. However, the existing works typically require on-policy data to train an RL agent, and the occupants’ personalized thermal preferences are not considered, which is limited in the real-world scenarios. This paper designs a high-performance model-based offline RL algorithm for personalized HVAC systems. The proposed algorithm can quickly adapt to different occupants’ thermal preferences with a few thermal feedbacks, guaranteeing the high occupants’ personalized thermal comfort levels efficiently. First, we use a meta-supervised learning algorithm to train an occupant's thermal preference model. Then, we train an ensemble neural network to predict the thermal states of the considered zone. In addition, the obtained ensemble networks can indicate the regions in the state and action spaces covered by the offline dataset. With the personalized thermal preference model updated via meta-testing, model-based RL is used to derive the optimal HVAC controller. Since the proposed algorithm only requires offline datasets and a few online thermal feedbacks for training, it contributes to a more practical deployment of the RL algorithm to HVAC systems. We use the ASHRAE database II to verify the effectiveness and advantage of the meta-learning algorithm for modeling different occupants’ thermal preferences. Numerical simulations on the EnergyPlus environment demonstrate that the proposed algorithm can guarantee personalized thermal preferences with a slight increase of power consumption of 1.91% compared with the model-based RL algorithm with on-policy data aggregation. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. The model of personalized thermal comfort can be learned via various machine learning algorithms and used to improve the individuals’ thermal comfort levels with potentially less energy consumption of HVAC systems. However, the learning of such a model typically requires a substantial number of thermal votes from the considered occupant, and the environmental conditions needed for collecting some votes may be undesired by the occupant in order to obtain a model with good generalization ability. In this paper, we propose to use a meta-learning algorithm to reduce the required number of personalized thermal votes so that a personalized thermal comfort model can be obtained with only a small number of feedback. With the learned meta-model, we derive a method based on the backpropagation of neural networks to quickly identify the best environmental and personal conditions for a specific occupant. The proposed identification algorithm has an additional advantage that the thermal comfort, indicated by the mean thermal sensation value, improves incrementally during the data collection process. We use the ASHRAE global thermal comfort database II to verify that the meta-learning algorithm can achieve an improved prediction accuracy after using 5 thermal sensation votes from an occupant to make adaptations. In addition, we show the effectiveness of the fast identification algorithm for the best personalized thermal environmental conditions with a thermal sensation generation model built from the PMV model. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  4. Our relationship with technology is constantly evolving, and how we use technology in disasters has evolved even faster. Understanding how to utilize human interactions with technology and the limitations of those interactions will be a crucial building block to contextualizing crisis data. The impact of geographic scale on behavioral change analyses is an unexplored facet of our ability to identify relative severities of crisis situations, magnitudes of localized crises, and total durations of disaster impacts. Within this paper, we aggregate Twitter and hurricane damage data across a wide range of geographic scales and assess the impact of increasing scale on both the recognition of extreme behaviors and the correlation between activity and damage. The power-law relationships identified between many of these variables indicate a direct, definable scalar dependence of social media aggregation analyses, and these relationships can be used to inform more intelligent, equitable, and actionable social media usage in emergency response. 
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  5. null (Ed.)