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Comfort and Environment, Research Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 787

Research Paper

Environmental Comfort: Gender Differences and Available Controls

The majority of the available academic research on “environmental comfort” as it relates to the design of living spaces is centered on temperature control. Though there are many design factors that can influence how comfortable human beings are within climate-controlled spaces, it is the thermal condition of the environmental space that is the most important factor in determining comfort (Gregerson). There are further considerations when discussing thermal conditions, as males and females tend to find different thermal conditions comfortable (Fanger). Understanding these differences, and attempting to best meet the comfort needs of both males and females can prove difficult and expensive, though there are some ideas and technologies available that may help to meet those needs.

Environmental comfort is not determined solely by thermal conditions, of course. There are many factors in an artificial environment that can influence comfort. The way spaces are lit, how crowded or noisy they are, and how safe occupants feel within artificial spaces are all among the factors that contribute to environmental comfort. Comfort is both psychological and physiological, and building designers can consider these and other factors when making decisions about how artificial spaces will be created (Bernardi, Kowaltowski). While all of these factors and more can contribute to environmental comfort, thermal conditions are among the most significant factors to consider when determining how comfortable (and productive) the occupants of the space will be.

In many cases, human beings spend the majority of their time in artificial spaces, from their homes to their automobiles to their workplaces and even their vacation choices (Gregerson). Males and females also respond differently to thermal conditions, making the realization of an “optimal” temperature difficult for building designers. Human beings control internal body heat in several ways, including radiating excessive heat and increasing metabolic activity to regain lost heat (Fanger).

Males and females go through the processes of shedding and creating heat differently; females typically shed heat more quickly, potentially becoming uncomfortable more quickly than males. On the whole, human males are larger than human females, and the smaller body size of human females can hamper the retention of heat. The larger size of males, in turn, means an overall greater metabolic function, making heat retention easier for males than for females. Drops in ambient room temperature are more likely to affect females before males, and to contribute to environmental discomfort more quickly (Fanger). There are, of course, any number of variables that can contribute to differences among individuals, such as what type of clothing an individual is wearing, or what type of activity individuals engage in within artificial spaces (Fanger; Gregerson).

An ideal that designers reach for when considering the environmental comfort of the occupants in an artificial space is when 80% of those occupants are comfortable (Gergerson). This ideal is not easily achieved, and it can be quite expensive to even attempt to achieve it. Beyond conventional HVAC installations, designers have come up with many different ways to attempt to reach optimal environmental comfort zones. One method involved a system that pumps air under pressure up through floor vents, with the intention of forcing that air to carry heat to the highest points of the room, leaving cooler air below. One such system only requires that incoming air be cooled to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in significant savings of both energy and money (Gregerson).

The main problem to consider when examining the idea of environmental control as it relates both to gender differences and to overall populations is that no two people are alike. Variables in metabolism, clothing, and other factors can mean that two people sharing the same space can feel completely different in terms of environmental comfort. In general terms, slightly higher internal temperatures are considered comfortable in warmer months, while slightly lower internal temperatures are tolerable in cooler months, as weighed against the relative differences between the outside and inside temperatures (Fanger).

Understanding the differences between the environmental comfort of females and males is the first challenge for designers of the artificial spaces that so many human beings occupy. With all the factors that can influence environmental comfort, reaching an optimal level of comfort for everyone inside an artificial space is simply impossible. It is clearly imperative for designers to both understand the differences between males and females when considering environmental comfort and to choose the designs and technologies that best suit the specific requirements of any artificial space.

Works Cited

Bernardi, Nubia, and Doris Kowaltowski. “Environmental Comfort in School Buildings A Case Study of Awareness and Participation of Users.” Environment and Behavior. 43.4 (2011): Print.

Fanger, P.O. “Assessment of man’s thermal comfort in practice.” British Journal of Industrial Medicine. 30. (1973): 313-324. Print.

Gregerson, John. “The Thermal Comfort Zone.” Buildings. 104.1 (2010): 38-40. Print.

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