- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 26 Mar 2018
Evolving opportunities for providing thermal comfort
This article summarises a research paper, ‘Evolving opportunities for providing thermal comfort’ by Gail Brager, Hui Zhang & Edward Arens published in 2015 in --Building Research & Information, 43:3, 274-287, DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2015.993536.
The paper proposes new ways of thinking about the design and operation of buildings to provide enhanced thermal experiences and reduce energy consumption. The strategies that are suggested are supported by research, development and monitoring of new practices carried out by the Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at the University of California, Berkeley.
It is estimated that buildings in the USA contribute 39% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with 80% of this resulting from energy use for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. A significant proportion of this energy use is a consequence of controlling the internal environment of buildings within a narrow range of temperatures, even though this leaves 20% of occupants dissatisfied.
The current tendency is to create uniform conditions in buildings with a temperature range of between 22 and 24°C, delivered through fully-controlled heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. However, this is energy intensive and can result in thermal monotony, or thermal boredom. In addition, cooling systems frequently over-cool, delivering temperatures in the summer that are below those in the winter.
Studies have suggested that for every 1°C of expansion in either direction of the narrowly-controlled thermal ‘dead zone’, annual central HVAC energy consumption can be reduced by 10%. In addition, it is proposed that greater comfort, and even thermal pleasure, can be achieved by a more dynamic, non-uniform environment, and that a temperature range of 21 to 27°C can achieve optimal operative performance.
The paper suggests that performance is more strongly related to thermal comfort, rather than temperature per se, with influences such as; humidity, air movement, operative control and personal comfort systems, and it cites an emerging understanding of ‘alliesthesia’ which proposes that more variable indoor environments can enhance satisfaction and well-being.
- Moving from centralised to personal control.
- From still to breezy air movement.
- From thermal neutrality to delight.
- From active to passive design.
- From disengagement to improved feedback.
- Richard de Dear (2011) Revisiting an old hypothesis of human thermal perception: alliesthesia. Building Research & Information, 39:2, 108-117. DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2011.552269.
- Thomas Parkinson & Richard de Dear (2015) Thermal pleasure in built environments: the physiology of alliesthesia. Building Research & Information, 43:3, 288-301. DOI: 10.1080/09613218.2015.989662.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- BREEAM Thermal comfort.
- Cold stress.
- Comfort in low energy buildings.
- Dry-bulb temperature.
- Globe temperature.
- Healthy excursions outside the thermal comfort zone.
- Heat stress.
- Mean radiant temperature.
- Operative temperature.
- Predicted mean vote.
- Psychometric charts.
- Sling psychrometer.
- Thermal comfort.
- Thermal indices.
- Thermal pleasure in built environments: physiology of alliesthesia.
- Wet-bulb temperature.
- Wet-bulb globe temperature.
Featured articles and news
The London Build Expo is hosting a Diversity in Construction panel and networking session on October 24.
Analysis can help develop a specification, but must not lead to inappropriate specifications being accepted.
Dos and don'ts for creating a smart home.
New ICE publication recommends pay-as-you-go tax to fund roads and other financing options.
BSRIA launches a White Paper on wearable technology and wellbeing in buildings.
Have the pressures of the market shredded the core values of professionalism?
Lead times are a measure of the amount of time that elapses between initiating and completing a construction process.
Government releases first tranche of funding for removal of unsafe high-rise cladding.
How to ensure UK transport infrastructure copes with severe winter weather.