Operable windows, personal control, and occupant comfort

Gail S. Brager, Gwelen Paliaga, Richard De Dear, Bjarne Olesen, Jin Wen, Fergus Nicol, Michael Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

335 Citations (Scopus)


Past research (ASHRAE RP-884) demonstrated that occupants of naturally ventilated buildings are comfortable in a wider range of temperatures than occupants of buildings with centrally controlled HVAC systems. However, the exact influence of personal control in explaining these differences could only be hypothesized because of the limits of the existing field study data that formed the basis of that research. The objective of ASHRAE RP-1161 was to quantitatively investigate how personal control of operable windows in office settings influences local thermal conditions and occupant comfort. We conducted a field study in a naturally ventilated building where occupants had varying degrees of control over the windows. Utilizing continuous measurement of each subject's workstation microclimate, plus a Web-based survey that subjects took several times a day and was cross-linked to concurrent physical assessments of workstation microclimatic conditions, we collected over 1000 survey responses in each of the two main seasons. The data show that occupants with different degrees of personal control had significantly diverse thermal responses, even when they experienced the same thermal environments and clothing and activity levels. Our findings offer further empirical support for the role of shifting expectations in the adaptive model of thermal comfort.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4695 (RP-1161)
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalASHRAE Transactions
Volume110 PART II
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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