Arnab Chatterjee, Postdoctoral Researcher at EMPA, joined VIA’s CEO Colin Gounden for a chat about Swiss energy systems

If you tuned into our seventh VIA Visionaries livestream of 2024, you’ll know that our interview with Arnab Chatterjee was packed with things we value here at VIA: Energy efficiency! Smart buildings! User behavior! AI! Switzerland! If you happened to miss it, you’re in luck, we’ve got a solid recap of the interview and the full recording below!

Though this was our first time meeting Arnab in person, we’ve chatted virtually and have met a lot of the intellectually curious and energy-engaged folks at EMPA over the years.  So, naturally, we were excited to get Arnab in front of our team of VIAneers in Somerville and devoted followers tuned in around the world, to hear about his research at EMPA, which is focused on user behavior and energy systems. As you know, this particular topic is of interest to us – we recently made it to the final round of the ABB Scaleup Challenge 2024 in the Smart Buildings category, where we will showcase Skylight’s carbon reduction potential in Switzerland.

Here is a little background on Arnab:

Arnab Chatterjee and Colin Gounden discussing Swiss energy systems.

Arnab Chatterjee and Colin Gounden discussing Swiss energy systems.

Arnab is a postdoctoral researcher at EMPA’s Urban Energy Systems Lab. Through his extensive experience around the globe, including research roles in Italy and his current work in Switzerland, he has cultivated a deep understanding of building performance, energy systems, and user comfort. In particular, Arnab is focused on incorporating user behavior into developing smart buildings, which includes occupant comfort and how they interact with automated building technologies. In addition, Arnab’s current work involves testing new technologies for practical applications, including notable projects like SWEET LANTERN, a Swiss Government funded, 8-year initiative to support the transition to 100% renewable energy.

Chatting on a beautiful morning at VIA HQ for nearly 30 minutes, Arnab answered questions ranging from how buildings contribute to energy and carbon emissions, to the way advances in AI will impact energy, and how user behavior compares in Switzerland versus the U.S. One of our favorite moments was when Colin asked Arnab to talk a little more about user behavior. And, we were intrigued to learn something new:

“Current building standards are a bit too restrictive on the temperature set points, creating issues on two different levels. First, we are adding too much operational energy usage by creating an environment that is too narrow and second, it doesn’t let the metabolic activity or the metabolic rate of the human body vary. This is not good in the long term.

What is the solution? 

Why not try to create an indoor temperature that varies a bit more? So, for example, having 21℃, and moving constantly for heating, why not let it vary from 18℃ to 21℃ [64℉ to 70℉]? So, we can kill two birds with one stone. We can save energy and let the metabolic exertion of the human body happen.”

To hear the full question and response, and Colin’s hilarious reaction “Any time people say the office is too hot or too cold, I’ll tell them, it’s for your metabolic rate!” – watch the video below!

We’re thrilled to have hosted our seventh VIA Visionaries livestream with such a passionate individual. As Colin said in the interview, “we have a value called love in = love out, if you love what you do it shows, and I think it clearly shows that you love buildings.”

Follow along on VIA’s website and social media (LinkedIn, X, Instagram, Threads) to hear more about our role in the LANTERN project and to keep an eye out for our next VIA Visionaries interview.