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ASHRAE to Study Thermal Comfort, Energy Efficiency Link
Aug 10, 2005
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Research to study the impact of drifting temperatures on thermal comfort, health, and productivity is being funded by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

With heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) consuming a third of energy used in buildings, ASHRAE says alternative systems or strategies to reduce energy use are needed. Different approaches could include use of a building’s thermal mass in combination with night cooling or heating or cooling by pipes embedded in floors, walls or ceilings.

Such systems are often associated with indoor temperatures that drift during the day. While drifting temperatures may save energy, their impact on occupant health and productivity are unknown.

ASHRAE recently approved funding totaling U.S. $947,167 for seven research projects in the areas of indoor air quality, comfort and health, design tools, food processing and preservation, and operating and maintenance.

Among them is Occupant Responses and Energy Use in Buildings with Moderately Drifting Temperatures, 1269-RP. The research will be conducted at the International Center for Indoor Environment and Energy, Technical University of Denmark (Lyngby, Denmark), by principal investigators Jørn Toftum, Ph.D., and Bjarne Olesen, Ph.D.

“The concept of using drifting temperatures to save energy is not new,” Mr. Toftum said. “Some information is available on assessing the implications on thermal comfort of slowly increasing or decreasing temperatures. Drifting temperatures may not only affect occupant comfort but mental performance and the prevalence of sick building syndrome symptoms. We must make sure that comfort, health or productivity is not compromised in order to save energy. This project will help decide whether a given temperature change is acceptable and quantify the effects of temperature changes on human health and productivity.”

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