Introduction: Environmental Comfort and Beyond
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At this time of writing, the field of Environmental Comfort does not in fact exist. This is so even though the topic is taught in nearly all schools of architecture and forms the core of much architectural discourse. It is to be found mainly in subjects like architectural science (e.g., Szokolay 2008),1 environmental or climatic design (e.g., Drake 2009; Olgyay 1963), or archi-tectural technology (e.g., Bougdah and Sharpies 2009; Lechner 2009). The titles of these subjects allude to the scientific and engineering foundation of the topic and explain the emphasis on technology and scientifically derived criteria in current literature on the topic. To some extent, therein lie the constraints beyond which the current book attempts to expand. As its name suggests, environmental comfort is about comfort criteria in the design of the built environment — in particular, in terms of heat, light and sound. Of more recent interest, environmental comfort today must now include indoor air quality. The first three topics emphasize the sensorial nature of environmental comfort and betray their origins in physics. Indoor air quality originated less from physics but from the discovery late in the twentieth century that modern buildings can cause illness, often as a result of air conditioning. Sometimes physical comfort and ergonomics may also be included amongst the topics. Since modern buildings are highly serviced, the subject includes the integration of engineering services like HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), lighting and acoustical systems. With current concerns on energy consumption and sustainability, the discussion is also steered towards how we can achieve comfort conditions with minimum energy and sustainable design.
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