In recent decades, international standards that define energy requirements are based on the notion that thermal comfort is achieved in uniform and steady-state environments, increasingly created within sealed building envelopes that lack any connection to outdoor thermal variability, a necessity for human well-being. These sealed excessively energy consuming environments feed our addiction to air-conditioning and excessive over-cooling.
But, there is a different path that can reduce energy while improving comfort. Recent research suggests that thermal perception and comfort are more than a deterministic heat balance and that positive thermal experiences can be created from more energy-conserving and dynamic fluctuations in temperatures, air flow, radiant, and humidity conditions. This physiological phenomenon is called thermal alliesthesia: the sensory pleasure arising from transient or contrasting thermal experiences.
Our lab employs thermal alliesthesia (pleasure) concepts that were shown to inspire a more coherent understanding of occupant comfort requirements. As an emerging paradigm, thermal alliesthesia research challenges the thermal monotony that has become the status quo in the built environment by promoting non-uniform and dynamic thermal strategies such as personal environmental control systems and transient thermal environments.
We test innovative thermal design strategies that reduce the need for heavily engineered and thermally static indoor climates, thus leading to improvements in energy efficiency and occupants’ adaptive comfort and resilience. Most importantly, we foster thermal adaptivity that can shape policies and strategies for livelihood diversification and social capital that increase climate response capacity among communities that depend on natural resources.