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Evolving opportunities for providing thermal comfort

  • Author(s): Brager, Gail;
  • Zhang, Hui;
  • Arens, Edward
  • et al.
Abstract

The building industry needs a fundamental paradigm shift in its notion of comfort, to find low-energy ways of creating more thermally dynamic and non-uniform environments that bring inhabitants pleasure. Strategies for providing enriched thermal environments must be conjoined with reducing energy; these are inseparable for any building striving for high performance. The objective of current comfort standards is to have no more than 20% of occupants dissatisfied, yet buildings are not reaching even that scant goal. A significant energy cost is incurred by the current practice of controlling buildings within a narrow range of temperatures (often over-cooling in the summer). If building designers and operators can find efficient ways to allow building temperatures to float over a wider range, while affording occupants individual control of comfort, the potential for energy savings is enormous. Five new ways of thinking, or paradigm shifts, are presented for designing or operating buildings to provide enhanced thermal experiences. They are supported by examples of research conducted by the Center for the Built Environment, and include shifts from centralized to personal control, from still to breezy air movement, from thermal neutrality to delight, from active to passive design, and from system disengagement to improved feedback loops.

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