Comfort as the dead state of buildings : a preliminary discussion

Bonetti, Valentina; Bicer, Yusuf and Akif Ezan, Mehmet and Dincer, İbrahim, eds. (2020) Comfort as the dead state of buildings : a preliminary discussion. In: 12th International Exergy, Energy and Environment Symposium (IEEES-12). Hamad bin Khalifa University Press, QAT, pp. 584-588. ISBN 9786254098178 (

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Exergy is typically defined as the maximum work that can be extracted from a system when reaching equilibrium with its "reference environment" - a large region unaffected by the interactions - and derives from Gibbs' original concept of "available energy of a body and medium". The reference environment definition plays a key role in exergy analysis but is still controversial, especially in the case of buildings; the most popular choice is the local outdoor air, because readily available and largely unaffected by the presence of the building, but its fluctuating conditions pose various challenges. The controversy around the reference environment arguably remains one of the main blockers for the practical application of building exergy methods. However, going back to the origins, Gibbs defined available energy not only for a "body and medium", but also for the case of a "body alone", a system formed by subsystems in non-equilibrium conditions. Later, exergy too was defined for this second case, as the subsystem contribution to the body available energy. In the case of the "body alone", the reference is the "dead state" (or "thermostatic state" of the body), in place of the reference environment. The main idea of this article is that building exergy analysis can be based not only, as currently, on the exergy definition originated by Gibbs' case of the "body and medium", but alternatively on the exergy definition originated by the case of the "body alone", for which a large environment is not needed. The outdoor reference environment can thus be substituted by an indoor "dead state", making the analysis simpler and "warm" and "cool" exergies more relevant to practical heating and cooling applications. The study discusses typical fluctuations of indoor conditions and the impact on exergy values, and proposes a fixed dead state as the exergy reference.