When joined the Institute in January 2004, I was working on “Optimal Supervisory Control of Renewable Energy Systems in Buildings” (EPSRC 2004-2006). The project investigated model-based control strategies for tackling complex dynamics between renewable thermal systems and buildings. Though aimed initially to implement an optimization algorithm in the control box of the Brocks Hill Visitor Centre, we ended up designing a whole new controller with the optimisation method, while picking faults in the building and system design along the way. It wasn't as great as it sounds, as after all these years we are still waiting to prove our wonderful new idea in the actual building.
Optimisation is my number one favourite subject. Between 2000-2003, I did PhD in the Department of Civil and Building Engineering of Loughborough University, where I worked on the ASHRAE project “Building System Design Synthesis and Optimization” (ASHRAE RP-1049). “The innovative aspect of this work was the use of topological optimization to automatically generate conceptual designs for air-conditioning systems.” My real findings, however, is that it is so damn difficult to optimise anything, let along “everything at once” as in the case of a building. Alas, I got my PhD in the end, and this work was recognized as “Human-Competitive”. Sorry, I mean the ALGORITHM we developed was “human-competitive”!
My education was mainly received in China. I graduated from Tsinghua University in 1995 with BEng degrees in HVAC&R Engineering and Environmental Engineering. This was followed by postgraduate study at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC, previously known as the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine). My work there included developing a personal indoor thermal environment monitor. It was great fun making things from scratch, including making thermal anemometer sensors with nickel capillary tubes and fine copper wires. I got my MSc in 1998. Between 1999 and 2000, I spent 12 months as a visiting researcher in the renowned International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy of the Technical University of Denmark. My desk was right opposite the late Professor P. Ole Fanger's. Well, across the depth of the building and through several doors that was… but I COULD see him if he was in and the doors were open. I am still fascinated by that place. The Centre has only a handful of permanent staff and a small group of research students. However, it has been attracting researchers from all over the world like magnets; and so many people in this field have passed through the place. Ever so often during a conversation with someone I just met at a conference, “yes, I was there for xx months” would come up.
For a brief period between 1998 and 1999, I worked as a software engineer for an IT company developing operating systems for cash machines (ATM). I would not call it a dull job because I travelled a lot. While I am not on the move, however, much of the time was spent on installing and reinstalling software from a pile of floppy disks. It can be amusing sometimes, when a machine developed a habit of eating cards or printing nonsense on the receipt. It had NEVER happened that a machine suddenly dispenses a lot of notes for no good reason, though. What a shame!
My research interests include computer modelling and optimization, particularly in the areas of building and HVAC system design, and human thermal comfort. I was hired to further develop of the IESD-Fiala model, which was originally developed by Dr Dusan Fiala in the Institute in the 1990s. Over the years the model has been enhanced and validated extensively. It is now one of the most advanced human thermal regulatory models in existence. The planned development focuses on two directions: individualization and integration… This is still an on-going project, although it is seemingly going nowhere from software development's point of view, as I simply don't see any any building-related applications for a sophisticated and detailed human model as such.
Presently, majority of my time is spent on building optimisation and tools, especially on jEPlus. jEPlus was originally developed as a simple simulation manager for carrying out parametric studies. The tool has grown and matured over the years. It is a family of packages including optimisation and online simulation facilities. By bridging parametrics, optimisation and uncertainty/sensitivity analysis methods with COMPUTING POWER, the way we use building simulation in research and designs will be changed completely!