Twentieth century standards for thermal comfort: Promoting high energy buildings

Susan Roaf, Fergus Nicol, Michael Humphreys, Paul Tuohy, Atze Boerstra

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    64 Citations (Scopus)


    The urgent need to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a bid to meet increasingly stringent GHG targets has focused the attention of scientists on the built environment. The reason is that nearly 50% of all the energy in the developed world is consumed in buildings and it is here that the easiest savings can be made. Although the theoretical trend in building regulations is to favour lower carbon buildings, in reality new buildings have typically become more energy profligate year after year. Much of this results from increased mechanization, poorer building fabric and design, and the resource consumption patterns. Modern thermal comfort standards are partly responsible for increased levels of energy consumption in buildings as well as for encouraging unhealthier, less comfortable buildings because they drive the designers towards higher use of air-conditioning. A first step towards the radical overhauling of our approach to the artificial conditioning of buildings is to revise these standards. This article describes the evolution of the current standards and the problems inherent in the buildings they shape and serve and then proceeds to propose new methods of regulating thermal comfort in a warming world in which the cost of energy is rising.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-77
    Number of pages13
    JournalArchitectural Science Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • Adaptive
    • Buildings
    • Carbon emissions
    • Climate change
    • Energy
    • Regulations
    • Thermal comfort


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