A review of thermal comfort

  • Xiaoyu Du TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


Thermal comfort is defined as “that state of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment” (ANSI/ASHRAE, 2017). The definition of thermal comfort leaves open as to what is meant by condition of mind or satisfaction, but it correctly emphasizes that the judgment of comfort is a cognitive process involving many inputs related to physical, physiological, psychological, and other factors (Lin & Deng, 2008). People are always in an internal or external thermal environment. The human body produces heat and exchanges heat with the external environment. During normal activities these processes result in an average core body temperature of approximately 37 °C (Prek, 2005). This stable core body temperature is essential for our health and well-being. Our thermal interaction with the environment is directed towards maintaining this stability in a process called “thermoregulation” (Nicol, Humphreys, & Roaf, 2012).

Thermal comfort plays an important role in the energy consumption of buildings. So, researchers spent decades to find the appropriate approaches and models which evaluate and predict thermal comfort. A literature review of the current knowledge on thermal comfort shows two different approaches for thermal comfort, each one with its potentialities and limits: the heat-balance model and the adaptive model (Doherty & Arens, 1988). The heat-balance approach is based on analysis of the heat flows in and around the body and resulted in a model based on physics and physiology. Data from climate chamber studies was used to support this model. The best wellknown heat-balance models are the predicted mean vote (PMV) (Fanger, 1970) and the standard effective temperature (SET) (Gagge, Fobelets, & Berglund, 1986). The PMV model is particularly important because it forms the basis for most national and international comfort standards. The adaptive approach is based on field surveys of people’s response to the environment, using statistical analysis and leads to an “empirical” model (Nicol et al., 2012).


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Author Biography

Xiaoyu Du, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Xiaoyu Du obtained his MSc in Building Technology at Chongqing University, China. From 2002 to present, he taught at the department of building technology, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Chongqing University. He is an associate professor in Chongqing university currently. He has a long experience of teaching in multidisciplines related to architectural design and designing practice. He teaches complex building design, building construction, detailed design and green building innovation related technologies for undergraduate and graduate students. He participated and finished some education and research projects, and published papers and book chapters. He also finished many design projects for residential communities and public buildings in China. He joined the faculty of architecture and the built environment, TU Delft as a guest researcher in 2011.


How to Cite
DU, Xiaoyu. A review of thermal comfort. A+BE | Architecture and the Built Environment, [S.l.], n. 10, p. 49-68, nov. 2019. ISSN 2214-7233. Available at: <https://journals.open.tudelft.nl/abe/article/view/4103>. Date accessed: 25 feb. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.7480/abe.19.10.4103.