Combating overheating: mixed-mode conditioning for workplace comfort

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Journal Article
Building Research and Information, 2017, 45 (1-2), pp. 176 - 194
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© 2016 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Using post-occupancy evaluations of seven mixed-mode buildings–three in Australia and four in India–this paper demonstrates that effective mixed-mode conditioning (instead of year-round air-conditioning) can deliver comfortable workspaces. Occupant feedback reinforces strong associations between overheating, thermal comfort, overall comfort and perceived productivity. However, differing levels of thermal acceptability within and between the Australian and Indian contexts are evident. Occupants in the Indian buildings were found to tolerate a wider range of temperatures when compared with Western contexts where lower temperature limits entrench an energy demand through a greater reliance on air-conditioning. The outcomes from the study suggest that the perception of overheating and consequent risk to building performance can be intensified when occupants perceive limited adaptive opportunity or problems are not rectified quickly, whereas perceived control is less important where building systems are user responsive. Occupants in three of the study buildings also perceived higher-than-anticipated comfort which could be attributable to well-liked attributes, such as break-out spaces, daylight and fresh air included in these buildings. The findings challenge designers and clients to develop user-responsive climate interactive workplaces that capitalize on spatial and mixed-mode environmental control to tackle the question of overheating.
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