Comfort and performance impact of personal control over thermal environment in summer: Results from a laboratory study

Atze C. Boerstra*, Marije te Kulve, Jorn Toftum, Marcel G. L. C. Loomans, Bjarne W. Olesen, Jan L. M. Hensen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Field studies suggest that the availability of adjustable thermostats, operable windows and other controls has a positive impact on comfort, the incidence of building related symptoms and productivity. This laboratory study was designed to further investigate how having or not having control over the thermal environment affects human responses to the indoor environment. The study was conducted in summer in a field laboratory that was kept at 28 degrees C. A total of 23 subjects were exposed twice for about 2.5 h. During the first session (A) subjects were able to fine-tune their local thermal environment at any given time with a personal desk fan with continuous, stepless adjustable control. During the second session (B) subjects still had the desk fans, but this time the fans were controlled from an adjacent room by the researchers who adjusted the individual air speed profiles so they were identical to those recorded during the first session. Thus, each subject was exposed to two customized conditions with identical exposure, only different from a psychological point of view. During the two sessions identical questionnaires and performance tests were used to evaluate subjects' comfort, SBS symptom incidence and performance. As expected, perceived control over the environment was significantly higher during session A, but there were no differences in perceived comfort and SBS symptom intensity. Both self-assessed and objectively measured performance was significantly better during session B. About two-thirds of the subjects indicated to prefer the situation as during the first session when they themselves controlled the air movement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-326
    JournalBuilding and Environment
    Publication statusPublished - May 2015


    • Individual control
    • Thermal comfort
    • Fans
    • Productivity
    • Environmental psychology
    • Adaptive opportunities

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