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Sidebar: Figure 1. Psychrometric chart showing the comfort zone and various types of discomfort outside that zone.


The most common complaint facility managers hear from building occupants is that their office space is too cold. That would seem an easy enough problem to solve, except for the fact that the number two complaint is that it’s too hot. Different people, it turns out, are comfortable under different conditions, and keeping everyone comfortable at the same time is an elusive goal at best. Offices are considered thermally successful if only 80% of their occupants are reasonably comfortable at any given time. This is the goal laid out by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE®) in the industry’s gold standard of comfort— Standard 55, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.Humans have been creating spaces to induce thermal comfort for eons. The long-established components of comfort include air temperature, mean radiant temperature, humidity, and air velocity within the space, along with the personal factors of clothing insulation and activity level. But our understanding of what makes a space comfortable is still evolving, and these components, we’re discovering, represent only part of the puzzle of thermal comfort. ...

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