Operative temperature (previously known as resultant temperature or dry resultant temperature, but renamed to align with ASHRAE and ISO standards) is a simplified measure of human thermal comfort derived from air temperature, mean radiant temperature and air speed. It can be useful in assessing the likely thermal comfort of the occupants of a building.
Actual thermal comfort is dependent on environmental factors, such as air temperature, air velocity, relative humidity and the uniformity of conditions, as well as personal factors such as clothing, metabolic heat, acclimatisation, state of health, expectations, and even access to food and drink. However as empirical fits to these variables are very complex (see predicted mean vote), a simpler measure can be more useful in practice.
Operative temperature is defined as:
Operative temperature = (tr + (ta x √10v)) / (1+√10v)
ta = air temperature
v = air speed (m/s)
Operative temperature = (( hr x tr) + (hc x ta )) / ( hr + hc )
hc = convective heat transfer coefficient
hr = radiative heat transfer coefficient
Where the air speed is less than 0.1m/s, (as is typical in buildings) radiative and convective heat transfers may be similar, and so the equation can be simplified to:
Operative temperature = (ta + tr)/2
In many spaces, with low air velocity and where air temperature and mean radiant temperature may be similar, air temperature alone can be a reasonable indicator of thermal comfort. However, in spaces where surfaces may be heated or cooled, where there is significant thermal mass, or where solar radiation is present, air and radiant temperatures may be very different and so it is necessary to take account of radiant temperatures in assessing thermal comfort.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
There's a great collection of articles by BRE on Designing Buildings Wiki. Everything from 'Wellbeing' to 'Power over ethernet'.
Ministers announce removal of permitted development rights for pubs listed as assets of community value.
With CDM 2015 coming into force in April, what exactly is the new role of principal designer?
The challenge of creating low-carbon eco-cities in China. Could BREEAM Communities be part of the answer?
Do domestic ventilation systems perform the way they're supposed to? BSRIA put them to the test.
There are now more than 60 articles about BIM on Designing Buildings Wiki, helping you understand everything from data drops, to the relationship between different contractual documents.