FROM THE EDITOR
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A Publication of Stamats Buildings Media
Group Publisher Tony Dellamaria
Chief Content Director Chris Olson
Senior Editor Janelle Penny
Senior Editor Jennie Morton
E-Content Editor Pete Campie
Art Director Elisa Geneser
Graphic Designer Evan Brownfield
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Eric A. Woodroof Founder,
Are Your Building’s Occupants
Afflicted with Thermal Boredom?
For years office designers have been focusing on alternatives to the one-work- space-fits-everyone-all-day approach. Even as square feet per office employee has been shrinking, designers have been creating flexible spaces that allow employees more choices on where to do their tasks throughout the day – like
smaller but more numerous conference rooms, cafés and lobbies that double as working spaces, fewer private offices, more quiet spaces and recreation areas. The variety of
spaces is refreshing for employees and makes them more productive. And now it seems
that the same principle of variety applies to thermal comfort, which has been governed
by a one-temperature-fits-everyone-all-day approach.
In a paper entitled “Evolving Opportunities for Providing Thermal Comfort,” researchers at the Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at the University of California, Berkeley,
describe a phenomenon they’ve named “thermal boredom.” It is the result of trying to
make indoor temperatures constant and without perceptible air movement. The researchers compare the resulting monotony to eating the same foods at every meal and experiencing unchanging light and weather conditions. But it’s not just a behavioral issue – trying to
make HVAC systems operate within a narrow band is costly in terms of energy efficiency.
The researchers’ solution is “personal control systems” that allow occupants choices
for controlling temperatures. These devices include personal footwarmers and chairs with
fans and heating elements (see news story on page 12). While these occupant-controlled
devices use energy, their consumption was more than offset by far larger decreases in
HVAC consumption for conditioning the ambient air. In both heating and cooling season,
the researchers found that setpoints could be varied by up to 4 degrees F. from the norm
without complaints. Occupants also favor perception of some air movement, whether
they are feeling warm or cold.
As surprising as the results are, they seem to fit into human behavior patterns that are
affecting other elements in the office. To increase occupant satisfaction, for example, LED
lights are being tuned to mimic changing sunlight through the day. Occupants of buildings with operable windows are more likely to report acceptable thermal comfort. As
design and technology advance, they provide options to make the indoors more like the
outdoors, which seems to increase satisfaction and productivity.
Chief Content Director