The human powered Van Unnik Student building can house 750 students in individual rooms, spread over 15 floors. The cheapest rooms are on the north side (no sun) and on the upper floors (there are no elevators in the building).
Laptops & Phones
Each student generates the electricity that's used in his or her own room. Research at the Hogeschool Utrecht has shown that students are most attached to their phone, their laptop, and their lighting. The operational electricity use of these modern technologies is relatively low.
Working on a laptop requires roughly 20 watts of power, charging a smartphone about 5 watts of power, and a desk lamp with led-light can do with 5 watts or less. A one hour work-out easily supplies 100 watt-hour of energy, which means that the students will be generating energy for only 1 to 2 hours per day in order to use their most cherished devices.
Each room is equipped with the student's favourite fitness power machine. In the image, the student has opted for a rope fitness machine. The electricity that's generated on this contraption charges the laptop or any other device with an internal battery, so that no additional energy storage is required. If the student has pets, these can have their own fitness power generation machines.
It takes a workout of about 1 hour to work on a laptop for 4 hours. There are ways to further reduce the time required for energy generation, for instance by replacing a laptop by a tablet and a keyboard, which would need four times less energy. As computers and other devices become more energy-efficient in the future, it would take less and less physical effort to power them.
Human Powered Lighting
Every student room is equipped with two lights powered by gravity batteries. The student lifts a weight, and when the weight comes down again, it runs a generator that powers a led-light. To keep the light working, the student needs to lift up the 10 kg weight every 2 to 30 minutes, depending on the light intensity.
Students can run additional lights through the USB-ports of their computers. They could also use their laptop to charge a portable external lithium-ion battery, which can then be used to operate other devices that are fed by USB-cables. On the other hand, the use of candles is forbidden due to the strict health and fire regulations on the campus.
Windows & Water
Every south-facing student room is equipped with a small solar panel fixed at the window to boost electricity production on sunny days. This electricity can be used to run the laptop or charge another device. The windows are also used to dry clothes. This prevents the use of small wind turbines on the northern side of the building, but those would give a much smaller energy savings than air drying clothes. Finally, students need to pump up water to use the sink.
How to Keep Warm?
Students in the human powered Van Unnik building will need less heating in winter because they are physically more active than today's student population. When people are engaged in power production at a rate of 100 watts, they are perfectly comfortable in an unheated space. After exercise, the body stays warm for at least half an hour.
Because there's always a part of the student population generating energy during the waking hours, there's always a part of the student population that doesn't need heating. Furthermore, all students have to generate electricity for their own rooms, and walk up and down the stairs. To provide thermal comfort for students at rest, several strategies are followed.
First of all, students are provided with woolen clothing. When discussing space heating, we often overlook the fact that our own bodies are heating "appliances", too. Good clothing prevents body heat from escaping too quickly into the environment. With a woolen sweater and woolen thermal underclothing, the comfort temperature for a person at rest drops from 24 to 17 degrees celsius. Every student has several layers of thermal underwear available.
Each student room has a box-bed, which provides extra heat insulation. The rest of the room can be warmed by the body heat coming from the lower communal power generating floors. This body heat is piped throughout the building and into the individual student rooms. By opening the vents in the pipe, students can release the warm air into the room. For extremely cold days, students can plug a body suit into the vents, which results in a direct heating of the body.