On the relation of thermal comfort practice and the energy performance gap

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Recent research results from different countries show that although energy efficiency measures in buildings indeed led to lower energy use in buildings, there is a performance gap between the calculated energy use and the actual measured energy use in energy-efficient houses, leading to a higher energy use than predicted. Thermal comfort related behaviour is one out of manifold reasons contributing to this performance gap. Thermal comfort requirements are based on objectively measurable parameters. A number of contextual factors impact an individual's thermal comfort perception and preference. Technological opportunities and material arrangements offer several ways to conditioning indoor environments. Research shows that they shape the occupants' thermal comfort attitudes. Over time, technology as conditioning practice and insulation has led to different thermal comfort practice in buildings contributing to this performance gap. As humans show an excellent adaptation potential towards a wide range of temperature, enabling them to adapt to diverse climates but also seasonally, it follows also the adaptation process can work in the opposite direction. Hence, that with reduced exposure to outdoor weather and more narrow temperature ranges inside building humans might also adapt to indoor thermal conditions and get more sensitive to small indoor temperature changes, leading probably to higher indoor temperature over time ("indoor exposure rebound"). As our energy conservation efforts of the recent years show less effects than expected, it seems that the two mainly applied sustainability strategies efficiency and consistency have limited effects as they are affected by rebound phenomena. Sufficiency, as the third sustainability strategy, is not yet a generally accepted strategy. It refers to what has been described as "the right measure". The question of what would be "the right measure" of indoor thermal comfort, meaning what thermal conditions would be sufficient, can be raised. Based on a discussion of findings from literature, it will be concluded that there is a need for a new thermal comfort thinking in climates which have the need for seasonal or all year round active conditioning leading to a more sufficient conditioning practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number012049
JournalIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
Event1st Nordic conference on Zero Emission and Plus Energy Buildings - Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 6 Nov 20197 Nov 2019


Conference1st Nordic conference on Zero Emission and Plus Energy Buildings
Internet address


  • energy performance gap
  • rebound
  • comfort practice
  • adaptive comfort
  • human building interaction
  • energy efficiency
  • sufficiency


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