The main purpose of research on occupant behaviour is to enhance building energy performance. However, it is difficult to reduce the energy use without understanding the occupant, their needs and preferences. Individual differences and preferences for the thermal environment in relation to the spatial context are overlooked in the main stream of research. This study investigates the patterns of occupant thermal preference based on individual differences in perceiving the thermal environment to enhance user comfort and energy performance. A novel method of Visual Thermal Landscaping is used, which is a qualitative method to analyse occupant comfort and user behaviour according to the spatial context. This method drives away from the notion of ‘thermal neutrality’ and generic results, rather it opens to details and meaning through a qualitative analysis of personal-comfort, based on individual differences and spatial context information. Field test studies of thermal comfort were applied in five office buildings in the UK, Sweden and Japan with overall 2313 data sets. The primary contribution of the study was the recognition of four patterns of thermal preference, including consistent directional preference; fluctuating preference; high tolerance and sensitive to thermal changes; and high tolerance and not-sensitive to thermal changes. The results were further examined in a longitudinal field test study of thermal comfort. In several cases, occupant thermal comfort and preferences were observed to be influenced by the impact of outdoor conditions, when the windows were fixed. Practical solutions for research, practice and building design were recommended with direct implications on occupant comfort and energy use.
- individual differences in perceiving the thermal environment
- thermal preference patterns
- user behaviour
- Visual Thermal Landscaping (VTL)