Thermal Comfort & Smart Buildings
This is an excerpt from our review paper Comprehensive analysis of the relationship between thermal comfort and building control research – A data-driven literature review. The full article can be found here.
Objective—what we want to do
Previous work has addressed and analyzed the individual research fields of thermal comfort and building control independently, or focused on specific examples. However, energy efficient operation cannot be achieved without considering human comfort, which in itself is a complex topic. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to provide a holistic overview by (1) analyzing historical developments and recent trends, (2) investigating through citation networks how both areas have interacted with each other, and ultimately, (3) identifying gaps in the literature on thermal comfort and building control.
Method—how we did it
We leveraged bibliographical data, i.e.,keywords and citations, and used VOSviewer, a freely available text-mining software to generate bibliometric maps of scientific fields. We then performed a keyword analysis, which results in scientific landscapes that we use to analyze historic development and recent trends.
Results—what we found
The next Figure (click to enlarge) shows the scientific landscape from the beginning of records (mid 1800s) until 2010, grouped into the keywords of Thermal Comfort (red), Materials (green), Building Control (blue) and Ventilation (yellow). The size of the dots is proportional to their occurrence (larger=more often). More importantly, the distance between the dots reflects how likely it is that both terms appear in the same document. Close terms appear together fairly often, while far apart terms are not occurring together. It is quite striking to see that ‘smart buildings’ and ‘building control’ are as far away from ‘thermal comfort’, and ‘health’ as possible. This is a huge gap that needs to be addressed to improve our buildings.
For the period after 2010, things begin to improve a bit, researchers, especially in architectural engineering begin to address adaptive and adaptable spaces and recognize the uniqueness of the occupant and the challenges that this poses. Here is the scientific landscape for 2011-2016:
We see the topics of Indoor Environmental Quality appearing, as well as topics of Urban scale; and “occupant behavior” emerges as a keyword in the middle of the figure. So there is hope 🙂
Conclusion—what we learned
We find that building control focuses predominantly on energy-savings rather than incorporating results from thermal comfort research, especially when it comes to occupant satisfaction. In addition artificial intelligence algorithms arose in the center of the scientific landscape. Thus, there is an increased activity to explore adaptive occupant behavior with ICT-infrastructure using machine learning algorithms. It is important, however, that these explorations are based on previous knowledge generated by the thermal comfort and building control communities and address opportunities to bridge them.
Successful bridging the disciplines on multiple scales, from building to urban scale, by balancing human requirements (comfort, satisfaction) on the one hand, with energy conservation goals on the other hand, will contribute to a sustainable and comfortable transformation of the building stock, leading to smart building and cities.
Reference—there is more
JY Park, Z Nagy, Comprehensive analysis of the relationship between thermal comfort and building control research – A data-driven literature review, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 82, Part 3, 2018,