Design of adaptive opportunities for people in buildings

Runa T. Hellwig*, Despoina Teli, Marcel Schweiker, Joon-Ho Choi, Jeffrey M.C. Lee, Rodrigo Mora, Rajan Rawal, Zhaojun Wang, Farah Al-Atrash

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Adaptive opportunities for people in buildings are a key concept in the adaptive thermal comfort approach. Research on people’s agency over indoor climate with regard to its importance for humans, effects in real buildings, preferred means of agency and the interrelation of behavioural adaptation and psychological adaptation have led to rather a broad foundation for transferring those insights into real building design. However, guidelines or design processes on how to support people’s behavioural control through building design are still missing. This chapter presents first a building design process of adaptive opportunities and discusses subsequently how designing buildings for adaptive opportunities contributes to thermal resilience. The proposed process consists of four steps: 1) exploration of all conceivable adaptive actions and responses, 2) selection of those common adaptive opportunities that match the building’s context, 3) consideration of contextually new adaptive opportunities, based on future developments (e.g. climate change, technological progress), and 4) combination of the contextually common and contextually new adaptive opportunities into an adaptive opportunity design portfolio. This process is facilitated with tools, such as provision of example questions to identify appropriate mixture of common and new adaptive opportunities, and exemplary design and operation actions for stakeholders. Adaptive opportunities and the passive performance a building affords are the means to enhance not only human thermal comfort in buildings but human resilience and are paramount to build a resilient human building interaction in a changing environment.

About the book:
This book brings together some of the finest academics in the field to address important questions around the way in which people experience their physical environments, including temperature, light, air-quality, acoustics and so forth. It is of importance not only to the comfort people feel indoors, but also the success of any building as an environment for its stated purpose. The way in which comfort is produced and perceived has a profound effect on the energy use of a building and its resilience to the increasing dangers posed by extreme weather events, and power outages caused by climate change. Research on thermal comfort is particularly important not only for the health and well-being of occupants but because energy used for temperature control is responsible for a large part of the total energy budget of the built environment.

In recent years there has been an increasing focus on the vulnerabilities of the thermal comfort system; how and why are buildings failing to provide safe and agreeable thermal environments at an affordable price? Achieving comfort in buildings is a complex subject that involves physics, behaviour, physiology, energy conservation, climate change, and of course architecture and urban design. Bringing together the related disciplines in one volume lays strong, multi-disciplinary foundations for new research and design directions for resilient 21st century architecture. This book heralds workable solutions and emerging directions for key fields in building the resilience of households, organisations and populations in a heating world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Routledge Handbook of Resilient Thermal Comfort
EditorsFergus Nicol, Hom B. Rijal, Sue Roaf
Number of pages17
Publication date19 Apr 2022
ISBN (Print)9781032155975
ISBN (Electronic)9781003244929
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2022
SeriesRoutledge International Handbooks


  • personal control
  • indoor environmental affordances
  • behaviour opportunities
  • adaptive opportunities
  • perceived control
  • resilient design
  • architecture
  • Resilience


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