The Comfort Zone vs Comfort Point


Terri Meyer Boake teaches sustainable design at the University of Waterloo, and is teaching architects how to prepare for the 2030 challenge, where architects are working toward making buildings zero carbon. This will involve a lot more natural lighting, ventilation and passive solar. But one problem is our expectations. She spoke recently at the Ontario Association of Architects convention in Toronto.


The drawing above is from Victor Olgyay's 1963 book Designing with Climate, where Olgyay shows a zone where people are comfortable. It is a range of temperature and humidity.

But Terri adds the red lines that meet at a point, and notes that today's architects and mechanical engineers don't work within the zone, but to a "finite point of expected comfort for 100% mechanical heating and cooling."

If one is going to use natural ventilation, opening windows, passive solar and other green technologies, we have to stop aiming for the point and start thinking of the zone. It takes a lot of energy to hit that point, and it isn't necessary for human comfort.


Meyer Boake also notes that you must design differently for different climate regions, something that one would think would be pretty obvious, yet condos and houses look pretty much the same in California or North Dakota. But if you need heat for much of the year you are going to deal with the sun differently than if you need cooling. Her key points about what we have to do to do sustainable design:

-Reduced dependency on non-renewable resources

-A more bio-regional response to climate and site

-Increased efficiency in the design of the building envelope and energy systems

-A environmentally sensitive use of materials

-Focus on healthy interior environments

-Characterized by buildings that aim to "live lightly on the earth" and -

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
site renewable energy."


Terri Meyer Boake has her entire powerpoint show up on her website and welcomed everyone to borrow or steal it; it is a wonderful explanation of zero carbon design, noting the differences between it and LEED and sustainable design. In the words of Abbie Hoffman, steal this book. I know I will.

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