When was the last time your bedroom was too hot and you couldn’t sleep a wink? Have you ever woken up with a cold in the summer because your air conditioner froze you half to death? Often it is only when we experience this kind of dissonance between our body and our environment that we can realise and appreciate the fundamental importance of thermal comfort.
To put it simply, ‘thermal comfort’ is a state of contentment and satisfaction with one’s thermal environment. It’s the “just right” feeling that comes with being neither too hot nor too cold. Although the idea of a comfortable temperature varies from person to person, a thermal environment that ventures too far in either direction will undoubtedly have a negative impact on both mood and physical health.
There are four key environmental factors that affect thermal comfort:
- Air temperature. This is the temperature of the air in the room, often measured in degrees Celsius.
- Air speed. Air movement can cause heat transfer from the surface of the body, lower speed means less heat loss
- Radiant temperature. Heat loss can occur through convection (energy that is transferred through the airflow) and radiation (energy that is transferred from surrounding surfaces).
- Relative humidity. Humidity within the micro-environment has the ability to significantly affect a person’s living conditions
It goes without saying that there is little we can do to avoid extreme temperatures when we are outdoors. Whether it’s a heat wave or a snowstorm, we’re advised to stay indoors for our safety. This is, after all, one of the most important functions of architecture. Cooling and heating interiors are designed to make us feel comfortable and safe. As we continue to progress into the 21st century, many people have become accustomed to technological advances and a better quality of life. But what happens when these systems fail to adequately meet our basic human requirements? What can building designers do to meet our innate need for comfort while remaining conscious of energy consumption?
When it comes to air distribution, depending on the time of year, your system HVAC works hard to either heat cold air in the winter or cool hot, humid air in the summer. Throughout the year, air is continuously passing through your equipment. HVAC. If there are leaks in your building’s envelope. and if air begins to enter the building by other means, indoor air quality will suffer. The air that seeps in will be either below or above your desired temperature and humidity, significantly lowering your thermal comfort level. Over time, neglected air leaks will overload your system. HVAC while attempting to regulate indoor air conditions, thereby decreasing its efficiency and effectiveness.
In today’s world, the reality is that the average person spends up to 90% of their life indoors. When designing new buildings, it is imperative that great care and attention is paid to optimising indoor thermal comfort. While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every scenario, it is important for building designers to be mindful of their strategies and implement solutions tailored to the unique needs of each project. Choosing to invest in high quality building materials will also help prevent potential future underperformance. In conclusion, having a solid understanding of thermal comfort is important for the future of architecture as it is an important piece of the puzzle in building design and sustainability.