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It’s getting hot in here, so take off some clothes?

By Tia Kansara, on 13 March 2015

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By Tia Kansara, UCL Energy Institute PhD student. Continue the conversation with Tia: @2050city

Thermal comfort is the study of the human psychological, physiological and physical environment. It is a vast subject buried in the science of comfort in the outdoors and indoors. Research, like how we feel comfortable in the buildings and cities we design – is of core value for architects (designers), governments (policy-makers), engineers (construction specialists) and occupants (you and me).

Increasingly, this subject has moved from military and industrial applications, from where it was initially financed, to the home environment. Heat and cold stresses of humans in oil rigs and infantry operations have huge implications on safety and productivity. If at 37 deg. C the human body cannot cool itself using evaporation, it is a matter of hours one may survive.

For this reason, clothing and metabolic activity are just as important as air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity and relative humidity. One of the answers to our adaption to climate change is hidden in the science of thermal comfort. We are frequently experiencing changes in external conditions, London’s temperature is rising due in large part to the urban form’s ability to retain heat and later to radiate it.

My research challenges why the designs of entrance lobbies and other transitional spaces in the building have identical comfort parameters to other permanently occupied spaces indoors. Have we missed a trick here? We may potentially save energy whilst maintaining the comfort of occupants if we re-configure these spaces.

I suggest we get some more clothes on, or like Cool Biz in Japan, take more off, to cater to a growing change in our external environment. This will open up a whole realm of comfort indoors if we respect the outdoors and choose to work with it, rather than against it. In places like the UAE, passive designs and adaptive comfort are a must if the government intends to reduce subsidies and increase occupant intelligence of the impacts of a warmer summer.

A rise in fossil fuel consumption to cool or heat buildings is a concern for all of us if we want to live on an Earth that has been replenished by our existence, rather than depleted. The window of opportunity is still open to reconfigure our lifestyle to a more-climate-friendly existence.

Tia Kansara
UCL Energy Institute

One Response to “It’s getting hot in here, so take off some clothes?”

  • 1
    Rod Hackney wrote on 13 March 2015:

    Excellent initiative – well done – Science and thermal comfort is cooooool.

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