Thermal Comfort  

Introducing thermal comfort

What is Thermal Comfort?

According to the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55-2010 report on the subject of 'Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy', thermal comfort is defined as,

that condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment and is assessed by subjective evaluation.”

As warm-blooded mammals, humans possess carefully attuned thermal responses. Even the slightest fluctuations in temperature can induce thermal discomfort, which affects our ability to perform simple tasks and in extreme cases, poor thermal levels can cause significant harm.

Thermal comfort is a complex area to assess, there are many variables to consider, including location and the local climate, demographics, inhabitants’ needs, and the purpose of the space. Mindful of these factors, a question arises: how do architects design thermally sound buildings for the 21st century to suit a wide range of needs?

As our built environment, population, and technology has advanced and grown, so has the demand for efficient indoor heating and cooling systems. Before modern central heating, natural solutions such as fire, windows, and shutters were employed to thermally control indoor environments. However, over time, the negative effects of using fossil fuels, electricity, and unsustainable methods of energy production, has put significant strain on our planet and economy. As health, wellbeing and sustainability become key considerations in building design, identifying and implementing materials and systems to reflect this is crucial.

Creating a building envelope is a low-impact way to establish a distinction between indoor and outdoor climates. The envelope acts as a filter between the building's inside and outside and should consist of:

Insulation: Lining a building with an effective insulating material is one of the most basic methods of reducing heat loss during cold weather and minimizing heat gain during hot weather.

Solar Gain: Using the sun's energy to sustainably heat an inside space. Solar gain can be achieved by building with materials that absorb heat, installing lots of windows with effective glazing and shading systems and the position of the building can make a difference to the amount of sunlight it receives over the course of a day.

Thermal Inertia: This varies depending on the mass of the building, and materials used. High inertia envelopes produce higher internal temperatures.

Airtight and Ventilated: It is important to make sure that a steady flow of air can be controlled throughout the building.

Mechanical heating and cooling systems can be employed to optimise a buildings thermal capacity and regulate room temperature.

Read about the Therma V, an air-to-heat pump from LG.