This paper aims to offer a nuanced understanding of overheating in the workplace by emphasising the context specificity of a building and its environment as experienced by its users. It reinforces the strong associations between thermal comfort, overall comfort and perceived productivity in the workspace.
A comparative examination of seven mixed-mode buildings in India and Australia demonstrates that it is possible to deliver thermally efficient workspaces that satisfy the requirements of comfort using effective mixed mode conditioning. To do so requires a climate-interactive approach, which is in contrast to an energy-intensive, climate-rejecting approach that relies on year-round AC to mitigate overheating.
Of the mixed-mode buildings studied, those that use effective air-conditioning when and where necessary received the highest comfort assessments, resulting in greater perceived productivity. An integrated approach is found to be crucial for mitigating overheating and design realisation. This is particularly critical in active controlled buildings where users exercise little control or perceive limited adaptive opportunities.
On the other hand, the study findings from three of the buildings suggest occupants can be more forgiving of some discomfort from overheating in situations where other aspects ‘work well’ and they enjoy an adaptive environment that includes climate-interactive features such as daylight and increased airflow.
This paper was published in Building Research and Information: the international journal of research, development and demonstration in 2017.