Top 5 takeaways from the Thermal Comfort #WELLography

Top 5 takeaways from the Thermal Comfort #WELLography

05 Oct 2017
/ Dusan Licina

We are very excited to share the Thermal Comfort WELLography, your go-to guide for thermal comfort education and research-based interventions to help design buildings that support occupant health, well-being and productivity.

Interested in learning more? Here’s a brief overview of what you can find in the Thermal Comfort #WELLography:

Thermal comfort is a hot topic. The thermal environment not only impacts our buildings energy consumption but also plays a large role in the way we experience the places where we live and work. Thermal comfort is linked to our health, well-being and productivity,1,2 and is ranked as one of the highest contributing factors to overall human satisfaction in buildings.3 Due to its linkages to integumentary, endocrine, and respiratory body systems, thermal comfort can impact multiple health outcomes. For example, exposure to cold air and sudden temperature change can trigger asthma in adults.4 Leading research also indicates we perform 6% poorer when our office is over-heated or 4% poorer if the office is cold.5 The Thermal Comfort WELLography offers an in-depth look at our perception of thermal comfort and how it can affect our performance and health.

Parameters of thermal comfort. Thermal comfort is determined by six core parameters including metabolic rate, clothing insulation, air temperature, humidity, air movement, and mean radiant temperature of surrounding surfaces. Achieving optimal thermal comfort requires some level of control over these parameters in any given environment. Besides these six primary factors, many secondary factors, including our age, gender, personal thermal adaptation and thermal history including climatological origin can be considered among the secondary factors that may subtly influence thermal comfort.

Finally, there are also psychological parameters, such as individual expectations, that may also affect thermal comfort. When we do not feel comfortable we may attribute our feelings to one factor like air temperature or humidity when really they are result of a combination of many factors. Refresh your memory on the basics of thermal comfort in the Properties of Thermal Comfort section of the WELLography.

Primary factors influencing thermal comfort.

Muggy, balmy, drafty, chilly or hot? Despite great advances in our understanding of thermal comfort in buildings and technology, many people still find themselves feeling uncomfortable during the work day. This is due to the complexities involved in controlling the interaction between people and the buildings in which we live, learn, work, and play. Studies have shown that only 11% of the office buildings surveyed in the U.S. provided thermal environments that met generally accepted goals of occupant satisfaction.6 Thereby, as many as 41% of office workers have expressed dissatisfaction with the thermal environment.7 Why aren’t we getting it right? Well, thermal comfort is subjective, meaning that not everyone will be equally comfortable under the same conditions. Beyond the primary and secondary drivers of thermal comfort mentioned above, factors such as temperament, preferences, social and cultural norms, and seasonal variation all play an important role in determining individual thermal comfort. Collectively, these variables underpin thermal comfort’s subjective nature and highlight why a one-size-fits-all approach to thermal comfort in buildings invariably fails for large groups of people. Want to learn more? Methods for designing and evaluating thermal comfort in buildings can be found in the Methods for Evaluating Thermal Comfort section of the WELLography.

How can we improve thermal comfort? A comfortable thermal environment that satisfies all occupants is challenging to achieve, due to our individual preferences and possible spatial and temporal variation of thermal environment. Therefore, there is a need for a holistic approach to thermal comfort that can satisfy individual preferences of everyone. The WELL Building Standard takes a holistic approach to thermal comfort and provides a combination of strategies to address occupant issues. For instance, providing areas with different thermal gradients gives people the flexibility to select a work area where they are most comfortable. New technology surrounding radiant temperature systems has led to increased thermal comfort through the separation of temperature controls and fresh air supply systems. Furthermore, by providing personalized thermal comfort devices all building users are able to adjust the temperature in their immediate surroundings in order to achieve better thermal comfort. The capability of controlling thermal environment can be crucial for achieving personal thermal comfort. New strategies continue to evolve in pursuit of the optimal thermal conditions for the safety, health, and productivity of people in buildings. The Thermal Comfort WELLography also provides a variety of strategies that can be implemented throughout buildings in order to achieve maximum levels of thermal comfort.

To learn more about intersections between built environment and thermal comfort, their relationship to productivity, well-being and health, and holistic design strategies to maximize occupant thermal comfort, download Build WELL. on your mobile device.

Dusan Licina is a member of the Standard Development team at IWBI. Drawing upon his expertise in air quality, thermal comfort and HVAC systems, Dusan serves as the ​Air and Thermal Comfort subject matter expert. In his free time, Dusan enjoys playing musical instruments, swimming and exploring neighborhoods around New York City.

Sources:

1. Fisk, W. J. (2000). How IEQ affects health, productivity. ASHRAE Journal, 44:5, 56-58.

2. Mendell, M. J., Fisk, W. J., Kreiss, K., Levin, H., Alexander, D., Cain, W. S., Wallingford, K. M. (2002). Improving the health of workers in indoor environments: Priority research needs for a national occupational research agenda. American Journal of Public Health, 92(9), 1430–1440.

3. Frontczak, M., Wargocki, P. (2011). Literature survey on how different factors influence human comfort in indoor environments. Building and Environment, 46:4, 922-937.

4. American Lung Association. Asthma in Adults Fact Sheet. (2012). lung.org. [Online].

5. Seppanen, O. A., Fisk, E. J., & Faulkner, D. (2004). Control of temperature for health and productivity in offices. Report LBNL – 55448. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

6. Brager, G., Baker, L. (2009). Occupant satisfaction in mixed-mode buildings. Building Research & Information, 37:4, 369-380.

7. Huizenga, C., Abbaszadeh, S., Zagreus, L., & Arens, E. A. (2006). Air quality and thermal comfort in office buildings: Results of a large indoor environmental quality survey. Proceedings of Healthy Buildings, Lisbon, Portugal, III, 393-397.