Video game-based learning for teaching building thermodynamics and control of HVAC systems

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Game-based learning has become a growing topic of research. It is now a common tool for learning technical and soft skills in certain companies. In line with the rapid development of E learning in education, the use of video games for the introduction of complex scientific topics to students can be an efficient teaching method.
This paper presents “GEENIE” (Gaming Engine for ENergy and Indoor Environment), an interactive video game simulating the thermodynamics and indoor environment of a building. It is used in a University education program to introduce a course about control of Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in buildings. The purpose of the game is to rapidly engage the students with the importance of having automated control systems in buildings to ensure high and stable indoor environmental quality (IEQ) with minimum energy use. Moreover, it allows students (players) to experience the interconnection between the different IEQ parameters and emphasizes the importance of searching for holistic compromises, rather than local optimum.
The GEENIE consists of an arcade video game station allowing players to control the heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and shading device of a simulated building. The players must adjust the power of these systems to keep the indoor temperature, CO2 concentration, and luminosity as close as possible to the comfort optimum, while the dynamic boundary conditions (outdoor weather and people load) induce disturbances to the latter. At the end of the game, a score is calculated as the average IEQ minus the total energy use. The game can also be run in “automated mode” where the computer controls the HVAC systems with either an ON/OFF, PI or predictive controller.
The main gamification aspect of this teaching tool is the competition between players for the highest score. It was observed that it rapidly draws the attention of the students and thus facilitates further discussions about building thermodynamics and IEQ. In addition, the game is designed to be difficult for human players. Consequently, the automated controllers largely outperform the players’ manual control, emphasizing the importance of the course’s topic.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts – BuildSim Nordic 2020 : International Conference Organized by IBPSA-Nordic, 13th-14th October 2020, Oslo
EditorsPeter G. Schild
Number of pages3
Place of PublicationOslo
PublisherOslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet)
Publication dateOct 2020
Article number7.7
ISBN (Electronic)978-82-8364-267-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
EventConference of International Building Performance Simulation Association : BuildSim Nordic 2020 - Oslo, Norway
Duration: 13 Oct 202014 Oct 2020
Conference number: 5010060


ConferenceConference of International Building Performance Simulation Association
Internet address


  • video games
  • control system
  • teaching
  • education
  • gamification

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