Debate 37 - Are you dwelling comfortably?

Monday, October 27th, 2008 | Debates

The need to re-define comfort in buildings

Current expectations and standards of comfort are almost certainly unsustainable and new methods and ideas will be required if there is to be any prospect of a significantly lower carbon society. Adopting moretechnically efficient solutions of heating and cooling buildings to current standards is insufficient. This debate arises from a recent Building Research & Information special issue that challenges our concept of what comfort is.

Are you dwelling comfortably?

Are you dwelling comfortably?

Instead of being a “scientifically determined”, monotonous temperature that must be maintained throughout the year, it argues that comfort is a socially-negotiable notion and there fore contains a larger degree of flexibility. Unfortunately, over the past 50 years most people’s expectations for a comfortable indoor temperature have narrowed to a small temperature range. In the context of the existing building stock, increasing the range of acceptable indoor temperatures (to more closely follow outdoor temperatures) would significantly reduce energy demands as well as create other positive benefits.

This presents a series of challenges for policy makers and the construction industry:

  • a policy debate to contemplate the scale and nature of the challenge
  • rethinking current standards, the provision of comfort and thinking about comfort
  • expending inhabitants’ expectations and creating a demand
  • identifying successful design and management approaches for building occupants to tolerate and appreciate a wider temperature range (and thus avoid rejection or revenge effects)
  • altering market conditions - especially the valuation of buildings

The debate was chaired by David Strong, chief executive of Inbuilt.

Paper 1 - Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society (pdf)

Richard Lorch, Editor, Building research & Information

Paper 2 - Making good enough better than just right (PowerPoint)

Dr Bill Bordass, Usable Buildings Trust

Paper 3 - Comfort : Sustainability (PowerPoint)

Philip Parnell, Drivers Jonas and RICS Sustainability Working Group

Paper 4 - A personal view from CLG (pdf)

Prof. Michael Kelly, Chief Scientific Advisor, CLG

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