10th Windsor Conference

  • 12th – 15th April 2018

    Rethinking Thermal Comfort

    After more than a hundred years of research into thermal comfort our ability to predict the conditions that ensure it remains imprecise. At the same time the need to understand our thermal interaction with the world becomes more urgent as global temperatures rise, populations grow and energy prices soar. The time has come for a major rethink.


    Rational behind the 2018 Windsor Conference

    The ‘adaptive comfort’ approach acknowledges a far wider range of acceptable comfort temperatures than the widely used methods based on steady state physiological models. It incorporates the influences of local and regional contexts and the ability of building occupants to control their own environments. It reflects the actual comfort responses of different people and populations and enables designers, specifiers and researchers to move beyond the traditional engineering fixation with the need for narrow ‘comfort temperatures’ when defining Standards for indoor climates. But whilst the adaptive approach opened minds to the importance of context, and has begun to indicate the many ways in which inhabitants adapt their environments to their needs, it does not provide the means for predicting comfort or discomfort precisely having demonstrated that in fact there is no one ‘comfort temperature.’

    The early physiological foundations from which many thermal models were built, lay in measuring the effects of extreme environments in studies more concerned with survival than delight. Recent research in the field has looked not only at understanding more about core comfort responses but now deal with the growing challenge of adapting to extreme weather trends thus re-focussing attention on discomfort at the extremes and its related health impacts.

    We have now moved on from seeing comfort in terms of a limited range of simple physical and physiological interactions to trying to understand it as part of a much more complex dynamic system involving psychological, locational and behavioural dimensions within a wide spectrum of cultural and climatic contexts. Efforts now need to be concentrated not only on unravelling the critical feed-back mechanisms involved but also on re-imagining the systems to enable us to provide comfort standards and guidance for designers and users that are Fit for Purpose in very different present and future climates.

    Fundamental questions need to be asked again. What do we mean by comfort and in particular thermal comfort? Is it a concept which is defined by its absence rather than its presence? Can comfort be measured on a single scale? Do current scales really measure comfort? Can and should buildings be characterised by their ability to enable their occupants to make themselves comfortable? Can comfort be predicted and with what accuracy? If yes then what measureable thermal and contextual variables should be used? Is precision a meaningful concept in comfort research? What do we mean by overheating?

    In a world of increasing climatic and political uncertainty is comfort the key concern? Should we now be calling for buildings which can enable their inhabitants to survive in acceptable indoor conditions through power outages, soaring energy bills and extreme weather events?

    In 2018 the 10th Windsor conference will report on, and explore, a range of approaches to the understanding of conditions which result in thermal acceptability, comfort and indeed delight. But it will also consider the role of social contexts, and the thermal conditions and limits on which the health and survival of populations are predicated and the ways in which the well informed design of buildings can enhance the well-being of populations.

    Fergus Sig
    Fergus Nicol
    London Metropolitan University
    Sue Roaf Sig
    Sue Roaf
    Heriot Watt University


    Papers from previous conference are available in downloadable pdf form on the NCEUB Website
    Provisional Programme
    About the Cumberland Lodge
    Organising Group and Scientific Committee
    Contact Us


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