NICE BUILDING: PITY IT’S NOT VERY COMFORTABLE

  • YEAR
    2000
  • AUTHORS
    Rowe, David
  • CATEGORIES
    2000 Conference Papers
    Thermal and environmental performance of buildings

Extract

Development of mechanical vapour compression refrigeration in the 20th century and of a steady state theory of
human comfort in the 1970s offered the promise of an ideal indoor climate for everyone. The idea of sealed,
mechanically ventilated, cooled and heated buildings was promoted heavily by the air conditioning industry and
was adopted with enthusiasm by the architectural profession and the real estate industry as a release from
climatic design constraints and an opportunity for risk avoidance. By the mid eighties however realisation was
dawning that not everybody considered the same indoor conditions “ideal” and not everybody was satisfied with
mechanical ventilation. At the same time concern was developing for the effect on the atmosphere of unbridled
use of energy derived from fossil fuels and an interest began to develop in design for passive ventilation
strategies and adaptive theories of thermal comfort. The debate continues with evidence that many sealed air
conditioned buildings fail to provide the comfort and satisfaction intended whilst contributing significantly to the
greenhouse effect. The author has collected subjective responses to their indoor work environments from 1213
occupants of 26 office settings in 24 buildings. Six are naturally ventilated and three of these have occupant
controlled supplementary cooling and heating systems. The remainder are air conditioned. One of the naturally
ventilated settings with supplementary cooling and heating (number 16) is located in the Architecture building at
Sydney University and its energy consumption has been recorded for more than two years. Some results of the
surveys and of monitoring energy consumption of setting number 16 are presented in this paper. Among them
are that occupants gave high scores for thermal comfort and air quality to the naturally ventilated buildings with
supplementary cooling and heating; and that setting number 16 uses much less energy than would be expected if
the space were conventionally air conditioned.

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