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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Indoor Thermal Factors and Symptoms in Office Workers: Findings from the U.S. EPA BASE Study

  • Author(s): Mendell, Mark
  • et al.

Some prior research in office buildings has associated higher indoor temperatures even within the recommended thermal comfort range with increased worker symptoms. We reexamined this relationship in data from 95 office buildings in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation (BASE) Study. We investigated relationships between building-related symptoms and thermal metrics constructed from real-time measurements. We estimated odds ratios (ORs) and 95percent confidence intervals in adjusted logistic regression models with general estimating equations, overall and by season. Winter indoor temperatures spanned the recommended winter comfort range; summer temperatures were mostly colder than the recommended summer range. Increasing indoor temperatures, overall, were associated with increases in few symptoms. Higher winter indoor temperatures, however, were associated with increases in all symptoms analyzed. Higher summer temperatures, above 23oC, were associated with decreases in most symptoms. Humidity ratio, a metric of absolute humidity, showed few clear associations. Thus, increased symptoms with higher temperatures within the thermal comfort range were found only in winter. In summer, buildings were overcooled, and only the higher observed temperatures were within the comfort range; these were associated with decreased symptoms. Confirmation of these findings would suggest that thermal management guidelines consider health effects as well as comfort.

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