The Future of Thermal Comfort in an Energy- Constrained World, ISBN-13: 978-3319001487

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The Future of Thermal Comfort in an Energy- Constrained World, ISBN-13: 978-3319001487

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  • Series: Springer Theses
  • 329 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2013 edition (April 20, 2013)
  • Author: Tim Law
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3319001485
  • ISBN-13: 978-3319001487


The dissertation investigates the scientific and business factors that have resulted in air-conditioning being a major contributor to climate-change. With his architectural background, the author demonstrates how a design methodology, not commonly adopted in scientific studies, may actually be a suitable way of dealing with a complex problem: the ‘business as usual’ scenario involving building science, sociological values and consumer behavior. Using his innovations as case studies, the author shows how good ideas cannot be evaluated on scientific merit alone and demonstrates why commercialization may have a pivotal role in deployment of research-based technology. He advances the theory of personalized thermal comfort which can potentially resolve the air-conditioning conundrum.

The need to dramatically reduce the consumption of energy generated by the combustion of fossil fuels is becoming increasingly evident. Year by year, scientific evidence mounts and scientific consensus worldwide confirms the nexus between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change. Increasingly, the consequences of climate change are becoming more evident on the lives of people around the globe. The magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events are increasing and resulting in the displacement of millions of people together with massive infrastructure damage. Floods, droughts and insect infestations are affecting food production. Low-lying islands and cities and the people who live there are at increasing risk. Human health, particularly in developing countries is being affected adversely. The biodiversity on which humans depend is being eroded globally.

Tragically, the construction and operation of settlements and the buildings within them consumes a significant proportion of global fossil fuel generated energy. Even in benign climates the design of cities and buildings results in the unnecessary consumption of energy. However, in hot and cold climates the need to provide thermal comfort is difficult to argue with. Tim Law is a Singaporean. Singapore is hot and humid. It is also a highly developed country and its success is based on human rather than natural resources. Consequently, the provision of thermal comfort for knowledge workers is regarded in Singapore as non-negotiable. The productivity of these workers is based very significantly on the provision of thermal comfort by means of air conditioning.

Tim Law’s research tackles this problem. How in a first world country like Singapore, he asks, could a knowledge-based economy be maintained in an energy-constrained world? His research started from a purely technical standpoint and he investigated a strategy in which a high rise building—common in Singapore— was designed to be a cooling instrument. This first stage was taken through to proof of concept. However, Dr. Law became increasingly aware that though theoretically feasible, the idea was unlikely to win favour in the real world of design and development. At this point Dr. Law’s thinking changed. He hoped to develop solutions that would win favour in the marketplace. In other words, a very efficient solution that is not taken up by industry is of little or no value while one that may be less efficient but has market acceptance is far better.

The approach taken by Dr. Law, with the benefit of hindsight, was that he worked from the macro, whole building solution to the micro, individual office worker solution. Consequently, the final stage of the research process led him to investigate the needs of the individual rather than the generic office worker. However, the research described in the following pages is of significance not only because it resulted in the development of a provisionally patented device that has the capacity to provide thermal comfort to an individual office worker but also because of the importance it places on the conversion of theory into invention, experimentation and commercialisation.

Table of contents (13 chapters)

Pages 1-4

The State of the World
Pages 5-15

Literature Review: Thermal Comfort and Air-Conditioning
Pages 17-52

Brain Cooling
Pages 53-82

Comfort Energetics: Thermal Comfort Under Energy Constraints
Pages 83-115

Research Methodology
Pages 117-134

The Rain Tower
Pages 135-162

Finding a Market-Oriented Solution
Pages 163-183

Personal Air-Conditioning
Pages 185-209

Field Testing DTAC, Methodology and Results
Pages 211-260

Future Research
Pages 261-268

Pages 269-272

Appendix: Building and Optimising the DTAC
Pages 273-328

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