Adaptive thermal comfort in context: a qualitative field study
Authors: Healey, Kathryn; Webster-Mannison, Marci
ABSTRACT: The need for qualitative study of human factors in the field of thermal comfort is well established, particularly within the context of naturally ventilated buildings where adaptation plays a significant role in occupant comfort. The importance of precision in measurement and survey instruments used within conventional thermal comfort research is acknowledged. However, it is argued that qualitative methods are better suited to identifying hidden issues which affect occupant comfort and satisfaction, and add depth to known issues. This approach adopts a view of comfort as a socio-cultural achievement, rather than an engineering problem. This paper presents the results of a pilot study which used qualitative thermal comfort research techniques alongside conventional thermal comfort field study methods. The study building, a small office operating within a suburban, residential setting, was predominately naturally ventilated with a high level of adaptive opportunity available to occupants. The results highlight the importance of cultural and contextual factors which facilitate or limit comfort-related adaptations. This is contrasted with existing qualitative studies. The outcomes from the pilot study provide guidance for the wider research project.