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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Experimental evaluation of the effect of body mass on thermal comfort perception

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 4.0 license

Globally 39% of adults are overweight, 13% are obese, and 9% are underweight. Current thermal comfort standards, catering to the normal weight occupant, may hence be ignoring nearly 60% of the population. This could have significant comfort, productivity and energy implications. We performed a climate chamber study of the thermal response of 76 subjects in all the body mass index (BMI) categories, from 17 and 37 kg/m2. Every participant underwent the same four sessions at average operative temperatures of 19.9, 22.4, 25.3, and 28.2 °C. We obtained subjective feedback from participants on their thermal sensation and preference, humidity sensation and preference, thermal comfort rating, and air quality perception. We also measured skin temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, blood glucose level, weight, height, waist and hip circumferences and body composition. Overall, we did not find significant impact of BMI on the thermal sensation. However, the overweight and obese participants preferred lower temperature compared to normal weight and underweight participants which may indicate practical implication for control strategies.

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