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Open Access Publications from the University of California
Cover page of Impacts of life satisfaction, job satisfaction and the Big Five personality traits on satisfaction with the indoor environment

Impacts of life satisfaction, job satisfaction and the Big Five personality traits on satisfaction with the indoor environment


Providing indoor environmental quality (IEQ) that satisfies building occupants is an essential component for sustainable and healthy buildings. Existing studies mainly analyse the importance of environmental factors on occupant satisfaction but often overlook the influence of personal factors. Here, we aim to explore the impact of personal factors like life satisfaction, job satisfaction, the Big Five personality traits, sex, and age on occupant IEQ satisfaction. We conducted a cross-sectional assessment in nine air-conditioned commercial buildings in Singapore and surveyed 1162 individuals on their satisfaction with 18 IEQ parameters. Using proportional odds ordinal logistic regression, we found that occupants with higher job and life satisfactions were, respectively, 1.3 – 2.3 and 1.3 – 2 times more likely satisfied with the 18 IEQ parameters. The odds ratios (OR) for overall environment satisfaction and job and life satisfaction were 2.1 (95% CI: 1.8 – 2.6) and 1.9 (95% CI: 1.6 – 2.3). We speculate that occupants’ satisfaction with their job and the overall environment are entwined, meaning that a better workspace could improve job satisfaction and vice versa. We observed some associations between the Big Five personality traits and some IEQ parameters, but the corresponding effects were small. Due to the substantial relationship between job and overall workspace satisfaction observed in this study, we recommend including job satisfaction questions in future post occupancy evaluations (POEs).

Cover page of Enabling Portable and Reproducible Long-term Thermal Comfort Evaluation with Brick Schema and Mortar Testbed

Enabling Portable and Reproducible Long-term Thermal Comfort Evaluation with Brick Schema and Mortar Testbed


Thermal comfort in buildings is typically assessed through occupant surveys, especially for short-term thermal comfort. For long-term thermal comfort, thermal comfort standards and recent research suggest continuous physical monitoring of temperature is sufficient. However, a lack of formal rules for data representation in building automation systems and the high costs of analytical application development for buildings impede predicting long-term thermal comfort at scale. This paper demonstrates portable and reproducible application development techniques for evaluating long-term thermal comfort with the Brick metadata schema and Mortar data testbed. We take advantage of the relatively large Mortar dataset containing over 25 buildings to improve the generalizability of long-term thermal comfort evaluation. Previous research often performs analysis on limited datasets.The design of Mortar enables running the same software applications across many heterogeneous buildings, simplifying building analytics application development, and acting as a vehicle for reproducible evaluations in building science. To assess the efficacy of this workflow, we identify six air temperature- based long-term thermal comfort evaluation metrics from the literature and implement them in software. The six indices are temperature mean index, temperature variance index, degree hours index, range outlier index, daily range outlier index, and combined outlier index. During the application development, we find that the calculation of threshold in the daily range outlier index is arbitrary, and the months belonging to cooling and heating seasons with different comfortable temperature ranges are unclear. Also, all long-term thermal comfort indices fail to differentiate between tool hot and too cold. To address this, we develop two new metrics to calculate overheating and overcooling separately. We evaluate our software across all the buildings available in the Mortar testbed. The result shows that 25 buildings with 1953 thermal zones have qualified air temperature sensor data during building occupancy. Based on this building dataset, we analyze Pearson correlation among long-term thermal comfort indices. The range outlier index has a 0.19 Pearson correlation coefficient with the daily range outlier index, compared with the Pearson correlation coefficient of-0.35 at a randomly selected building in Mortar. The opposite result indicates that a small building dataset is not capable of long-term thermal comfort indices development, generating misleading results. With the help of the uniform Brick metadata schema, we also investigate disaggregating the results by buildings, floors, zones, and equipment. We summarize them as a means of identifying problem areas and equipment.

Cover page of Overcooling of Offices Reveals Gender Inequity in Thermal Comfort

Overcooling of Offices Reveals Gender Inequity in Thermal Comfort


Growth in energy use for indoor cooling tripled between 1990 and 2016 to outpace any other end use in buildings. Part of this energy demand is wasted on excessive cooling of offices, a practice known as overcooling. Overcooling has been attributed to poorly designed or managed air-conditioning systems with thermostats that are often set below recommended comfort temperatures. Prior research has reported lower thermal comfort for women in office buildings, but there is insufficient evidence to explain the reasons for this disparity. We use two large and independent datasets from US buildings to show that office temperatures are less comfortable for women largely due to overcooling. Survey responses show that uncomfortable temperatures are more likely to be cold than hot regardless of season. Crowdsourced data suggests that overcooling is a common problem in warm weather in offices across the US. The associated impacts of this pervasive overcooling on well-being and performance are borne predominantly by women. The problem is likely to increase in the future due to growing demand for cooling in increasingly extreme climates. There is a need to rethink the approach to air-conditioning office buildings in light of this gender inequity caused by overcooling.

Cover page of An Examination of Range Effects When Evaluating Discomfort Due to Glare in Singaporean Buildings

An Examination of Range Effects When Evaluating Discomfort Due to Glare in Singaporean Buildings


This article discusses ratings of visual discomfort from glare across different buildings located in Singapore. These data were used to determine if range effects influence the vertical illuminance values for the same ratings of visual discomfort when the category rating procedure is used. The effect occurs when maxima and minima vertical illuminance (i.e. the range) vary across buildings. Our analyses showed that with a higher vertical illuminance range in a building, the mean vertical illuminance value for the same criterion of visual discomfort also increased. The results suggest that the effect caused by different ranges of measured vertical illuminance present across the buildings biased the ratings of visual discomfort. Although these effects may be unavoidable in some buildings that have vastly different levels of light, the data suggest that the overall range of vertical illuminance must be carefully evaluated when predicting visual discomfort. Matching these conditions may enable vertical illuminance to provide more reliable evaluations of discomfort due to glare.

Cover page of Creating alliesthesia in cool environments using personal comfort systems

Creating alliesthesia in cool environments using personal comfort systems


Personal Comfort Systems (PCS) promise to reduce the energy needed to condition indoor environments, while also enhancing their occupants’ thermal pleasure. To explore these potentials in heating conditions, we compared the effectiveness of PCS heating various portions of the occupant against the normal Air Conditioning (AC) practice of warming the room volume. Twenty subjects experienced three modes of heating (AC only, AC together with PCS, and PCS only) at three initial room air temperatures (14, 16, and 18°C) and were given some control options throughout the testing. Skin temperatures, thermal pleasantness, and thermal sensation votes were recorded during the exposures. The PCS heating was more effective than AC control at alleviating occupant discomfort. With PCS present, the three initial room temperatures produced equivalent positive perceptions of thermal pleasantness and sensation. Providing occupants with AC control did not influence this result. AC alone did not produce appreciable alliesthesia due to its slow rate of changing the room temperature. In contrast, PCS produced an immediate pleasantness experience with its faster-acting conductive and radiative heating spread non-uniformly across the body. Whole-body thermal pleasantness closely followed the pleasantness of local body parts experiencing thermal stimuli. These temporal and spatial characteristics give PCS a significant advantage in generating thermal pleasure over traditional AC systems.

Cover page of A data-driven analysis of occupant workspace dissatisfaction

A data-driven analysis of occupant workspace dissatisfaction


Studies often aim to determine which indoor environmental quality parameters best predict the overall workspace assessment. However, this method overlooks important differences distinguishing satisfied and dissatisfied occupant groups. We used a new analytical approach on 36671 post-occupancy evaluation responses to overcome this problem and better understand workspace satisfaction in office buildings. Principal components analysis reduced satisfaction votes with 15 different IEQ items into two principal components related to: 1) privacy and amount of space, and 2) cleanliness and maintenance. We grouped the data by occupants that were either satisfied or dissatisfied with their workspace. Principal component 1 explained half of the variability in the dataset and reliably distinguished occupants satisfied with their workspace from those that were dissatisfied. We used support vector machine to classify the satisfied and dissatisfied groups based on principal components 1 and 2. Classification of occupant satisfaction with the overall workspace was highly accurate (approximately 90%) and based predominantly on the component related to privacy and amount of space. Further analyses showed that occupants satisfied with their overall workspace were generally satisfied with all other IEQ items. There was greater independence between workspace attributes for those dissatisfied with their overall workspace. Issues of privacy and available space were an overwhelming determinant of occupant dissatisfaction irrespective of the success of other workspace attributes. These findings suggest that efforts to improve occupant satisfaction with workspaces should leverage designs that ensure privacy and provide sufficient space to support occupants in their work.

Cover page of Field Evaluation of Thermal and Acoustical Comfort in Eight North-American Buildings Using Embedded Radiant Systems

Field Evaluation of Thermal and Acoustical Comfort in Eight North-American Buildings Using Embedded Radiant Systems


We performed a post-occupancy assessment based on 500 occupant surveys in eight buildings using embedded radiant heating and cooling systems. This study follows-up on a quantitative assessment of 60 office buildings that found radiant and all-air buildings have comparable temperature and acoustic satisfaction with a tendency for increased temperature satisfaction in radiant buildings. Our objective was to investigate reasons of comfort and discomfort in the radiant buildings, and to relate these to building characteristics and operations strategies. The primary sources of thermal discomfort are lack of control over the thermal environment (both temperature and air movement) and slow system response, both of which were seen to be alleviated with fast-response adaptive opportunities such as operable windows and personal fans. There was no optimal radiant design or operation that maximized thermal comfort, and building operators were pleased with reduced repair and maintenance associated with radiant systems compared to all-air systems. Occupants reported low satisfaction with acoustics. This was primarily due to sound privacy issues in open-plan offices which may be exacerbated by highly reflective surfaces common in radiant spaces.

Cover page of A sex/age anomaly in thermal comfort observed in an office worker field study: A menopausal effect?

A sex/age anomaly in thermal comfort observed in an office worker field study: A menopausal effect?


In a field study conducted in office settings in Sydney, Australia, background survey and right-here-right-now thermal comfort questionnaires were collected from a sample of office workers. Indoor environmental observations including air temperature, mean radiant temperature, air velocity and relative humidity, were also recorded and matched with each questionnaire according to time and location. During exploratory data analyses we observed that female subjects aged over 40 and 50 or younger registered significantly warmer sensations than other subjects, male and female, from other age ranges. To further explore this phenomenon, the sample of building occupants were classified into two groups – women of perimenopausal age (over 40 and 50 or younger) while the remaining respondents served as a reference group for comparison. Women in the perimenopausal age range demonstrated an increased perception of warmth (p<0.01) and expressed thermal dissatisfaction more frequently (p<0.01) than the reference group respondents who were exposed to the same indoor environmental conditions. Further, women of perimenopausal age also expressed preference for cooler thermal environments i.e. lower air temperature (p<0.01) and greater air movement (p<0.01) than the reference group, and their thermal neutrality (i.e. the room temperature corresponding to a neutral thermal sensation), was approximately 2°C cooler than that of the reference group (20.7°C vs 22.4°C). A potential physiological explanation for the distinct thermal perception of women aged over 40 and 50 or younger observed in this study could stem from menopausal symptoms – the presence of hot flushes and dysregulation of the thermoregulatory system.

Cover page of Predicting thermal pleasure experienced in dynamic environments from simulated cutaneous thermoreceptor activity

Predicting thermal pleasure experienced in dynamic environments from simulated cutaneous thermoreceptor activity


Research into human thermal perception indoors has focused on ‘neutrality’ under steady-state conditions. Recent interest in thermal alliesthesia has highlighted the hedonic dimension of our thermal world that has been largely overlooked by science. Here, we show the activity of sensory neurons can predict thermal pleasure under dynamic exposures. A numerical model of cutaneous thermoreceptors was applied to skin temperature measurements from 12 human subjects. A random forest model trained on simulated thermoreceptor impulses could classify pleasure responses (F1-score of 67%) with low false positives/negatives (4%). Accuracy increased (83%) when excluding the few extreme (dis)pleasure responses. Validation on an independent dataset confirmed model reliability. This is the first empirical demonstration of the relationship between thermoreceptors and pleasure arising from thermal stimuli. Insights into the neurophysiology of thermal perception can enhance the experience of built environments through designs that promote sensory excitation instead of neutrality.

Cover page of Respiratory Performance of Humans Exposed to Moderate Levels of Carbon Dioxide

Respiratory Performance of Humans Exposed to Moderate Levels of Carbon Dioxide


In a business as usual scenario, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (CO2) could reach 950 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. Indoor CO2 concentrations will rise consequently, given its dependence on atmospheric CO2 levels. If buildings are ventilated following current standards in 2100, indoor CO2 concentration could be over 1300 ppm, depending on specific ventilation codes. Such exposure to CO2 could have physiological and psychological effects on building occupants. We conducted a randomized, within-subject study, examining the physiological effects on the respiratory functions of 15 persons. We examined three exposures, each 150 min long, with CO2 of: 900 ppm (reference), 1450 ppm (decreased ventilation), and 1450 ppm (reference condition with added pure CO2). We measured respiratory parameters with capnometry and forced vital capacity (FVC) tests. End-tidal CO2 and respiration rates did not significantly differ across the three exposures. Parameters measured using FVC decreased significantly from the start to the end of exposure only at the reduced ventilation condition (p < 0.04, large effect size). Hence, poor ventilation likely affects respiratory parameters. This effect is probably not caused by increased CO2 alone and rather by other pollutants—predominantly human bioeffluents in this work—whose concentrations increased as a result.