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Thermal mass and thermoregulation: A study of thermal comfort in temperate climate residential buildings


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Parsons, S 2011 , 'Thermal mass and thermoregulation: A study of thermal comfort in temperate climate residential buildings ', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The thermoregulatory influence of building materials to improve the thermal comfort of
buildings has been examined primarily using climate modelling based on the work of
Fanger (1972). This modelling has limitations because it does not accept that building
occupants are active participants in controlling their thermal environment. This thesis
addresses this knowledge gap by examining how thermal comfort in the temperate climate
of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia is influenced by thermal mass in buildings. This research
assessed: how the temperate climate of Hobart impacts the thermal environment of a
building; how past research in passive design for energy efficiency has been adopted, and;
what methods of modelling and studying thermal comfort are appropriate. The nine case
studies examined a range of building and occupant types. An analysis was undertaken for
each building including zoning and layout, building materials and insulation. Occupants
were interviewed at the commencement of each case study which included examining
acclimatisation to the local climate and thermal satisfaction with the dwelling. Seasonal
temperature data were recorded in the central living space of buildings over a three month
period. The research gathered dry bulb temperatures, surface temperatures, and humidity
data in each building. Direct observations were made on the activities of the occupants
within their thermal environment and they were surveyed regarding thermal comfort levels.
Results indicate that thermal mass impacts thermal comfort levels of occupants. However,
this impact can be negative or positive depending on other external factors such as the
placement of thermal mass within the building, exposure of thermal mass to insolation and
insulating materials around the thermal mass. In dwellings with poor thermal performance
occupants can increase thermal comfort levels by more closely adapting to the thermal
environment. Such techniques for adaptation include: the adjustment of clothing; the use
of controls such as windows and blinds; relocation within the building; changes in posture
and levels of physical activity; and acclimatisation to the local climate.
The results of this research are widely applicable to Hobart‟s housing stock and could be
implemented into the passive design of new buildings and retrofitting of existing buildings
to improve thermal efficiency. This research shows the importance of thermal mass in
passive design concepts of residential buildings. It provides details on how thermal mass
should be ideally implemented in a building, including placement, orientation, and access to
solar gain.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Parsons, S
Keywords: thermal comfort, thermoregulation, passive design, thermal mass
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