Chicago winters are cold, very cold. I spend countless hours in my machine shop during that time, with no heat. When MIT released the news that heat could be “shot” at me directly, I was intrigued.
MIT’s Senseable City Lab has concocted some pretty wild ideas this year, and it isn’t slowing down. The lab’s director, Carlo Ratti, recently announced the program’s next big project: “Local Warming.” The concept involves saving on energy by heating the occupants within a room, not the room itself.
The idea for the project began when Senseable City Lab researchers decided to find a way for large cities to decrease their ecological footprints. Heating a home is an energy-consuming process in itself, not to mention heating a huge office building. In fact, US office buildings account for roughly 20% of the nation’s energy consumption. So what should we do?
Local Warming installation at the 14th Venice Biennale.
Ratti said in a press release that a large office building can save big-time if it turns off its heat and turns on its Local Warming system, a network of Infrared heat lamps, mirrors, and motors that "shoots" heat at the occupants within a room. The result is a corporate lobby full of warm (and fascinated) prospects at a fraction of the heating cost.
The system is built upon a WiFi-based technology developed by the MIT’s Center for Wireless Network and Mobile Computing. It allows the infrared bulbs to track the occupants of a room and blast them with warm light, in real-time. It works best in large rooms with a handful of occupants.
The City Lab hopes the concept greatly reduces energy-consumption nationwide. It may also be a game-changer for outdoor activities during the winter months. Since the system is based on infrared heat lamps, the installation can be mounted just about anywhere (yes, even inside Soldier Field during the pre-season).
Local Warming is definitely just a concept at this point, but it made its debut at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. It will stay on display until November and serve as the Lab’s first prototype. Visitors can stand at specific points in a room to initiate the lamps. From that point on, the lamps will follow them around the room, keeping them warm.
Ratti is debating whether to launch Local Warming within the consumer market, using smaller LED bulbs, or to keep the innovation as a concept. There’s no word yet, but a little birdie tells us the MIT City Lab crew is also working on using a similar concept to keep room occupants cool. Good luck. Too bad there aren’t cold lamps. What were you thinking, Edison?