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Thermostats, climatically responsive clothing and reducing buildings greenhouse gas emissions

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Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive
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Abstract

There has been increasing reliance on mechanical heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in order to achieve thermal comfort in office buildings. The use of universal standards for thermal comfort adopted in air-conditioned spaces often results in a large disparity between mean daily external summer temperatures and temperatures experienced indoors. The extensive overuse of air-conditioning in warm climates not only isolates us from the vagaries of the external environment, but is generally dependent on non-renewable energy. Research conducted at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) involved altering the thermostat set-points to two or three degrees above the normal summer setting in two air-conditioned buildings during the subtropical summer. It was expected that this minor temperature change would reduce energy usage of air-conditioned buildings and in turn, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of this project was to measure the social, economic and environmental value of a different approach to thermal comfort, facilities management, corporate culture and acceptance of the benign subtropical climate. Surveys were administered periodically to workers in the buildings to assess their comfort levels during a four month period. Internal and external temperature, humidity and air movement were measured. Data collected was used to compare weather data and energy use of the buildings from the same period in the previous year; and also to analyse users' physiological and psychological responses, including the acceptance of appropriate climate responsive clothing as acceptable business attire. This paper presents the findings of the research, including 'lessons learned' and a set of strategies that may be used by facilities managers who adopt a similar initiative, to ensure that users of buildings are positively engaged and consistent protocols are communicated to all stakeholders.

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