Individual control: Air Conditioner in a Can from Japan
A new study from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley, confirms what everyone probably knew intuitively: If you give people control of their own environment they use less energy. According to the New Scientist, by installing individual vents and controls for each worker (which automatically turn off when the desk is vacant) instead of cooling the whole office to one temperature, it can cut the energy consumed for cooling in half.
It was particularly effective in hot, humid climates; they modeled it on Singapor and concluded that "In an environment like Singapore, it's pretty clear that these systems would pay for themselves in energy savings."
Individual Control: Herman Miller C2 : Peltier Coolers on Your Desk
Herman Miller has certainly known this, which is why they sell the C2, that can adjust the personal temperature up or down.
Witold Rybczynski knew this, and wrote in his book "Home":
During the six years of my architectural education the subject of comfort was mentioned only once. It was by a mechanical engineer whose job it was to initiate my classmates and me into the mysteries of air conditioning and heating. He described something called the ' comfort zone' which, as far as / can remember, was a kidney-shaped, crosshatched area on a graph that showed the relationship between temperature and humidity. Comfort was inside the kidney, discomfort was everywhere else. This, apparently, was all that we needed to know about the subject.
People don't care what the rest of the office is, they care about where they are inside that kidney. Really, I am surprised that it needed a study. More in the New Scientist