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Bringing Thermal comfort through green design and smart technology

Buildings being made for people to live in and must take into account human comfort while being designed. As a matter of fact, comfortable indoor environments increase occupants’ productivity, health and overall well-being.

In a serie of four articles, we will look into different performance indicators, such as visual comfort, acoustic comfort, thermal comfort and air quality, that can be monitored in order to promote occupant's overall well being, health and performance in indoor spaces.

Design Metric Series

Design Metric # 1 - Visual Comfort

Design Metric # 4 - Thermal Comfort

Design Metric # 4 - Thermal Comfort

This article will focus on thermal comfort and how it contributes to a comfortable indoor environment towards green buildings and smart buildings.

What is thermal comfort?

When we think of thermal comfort, air temperature is the first variable that rings a bell to us. It is the feeling of being cold or hot. In fact, thermal comfort is the measure of heat transfer between the human body and its close environment. The air temperature will have a direct impact on people’s productivity. For instance, if people are too warm while working, they will start feeling tiredness whereas if people are too cold, they will be agitated and disturbed.

"A study of office workers showed a reduction in performance of 6% at 30°C and a reduction of 4% at 15°C, compared with a baseline of between 21°C and 23°C." - Saint Gobain

Thermal comfort encompasses different factors: environmental factors such as humidity, air speed, air temperature and physiological factors with body metabolism and clothing.

Environmental factors can be controlled and designed whereas physiological factors are solely dependant on the occupant’s behavior and physiology. To affect these physiological factors, governments like Japan for instance, have implemented the CoolBiz campaign, which aims to reduce electricity consumption in summer by encouraging employees to wear light clothes.

Surprisingly, thermal comfort is the subject of a cultural conversation. "In South-East Asia, some countries consider access to air condition a status in the society. It is the case in Indonesia and Vietnam, where using higher amount of air condition means being wealthier than people not using it", according to Eco Business.

So how can green design and smart technology improve thermal comfort?