by Nate Goore, Principal & Signo Uddenberg, Director of Innovation
Diversity makes life interesting, and it also makes thermal sensation more interesting. Experiments show that a person putting each of their hands, one previously dipped in a cold liquid and one previously dipped in a warm liquid, in lukewarm water will experience conflicting feelings about the warmth of the water. The hand previously dipped in cold water will feel that the water is warmer. The hand previously dipped in warm water will feel that the water is colder. And over time the hand will experience no sensation as the thermoreceptors in the hand become accustomed to the steady-state environment.
The same thermal phenomena occurs everyday in our buildings. We design to create static, unchanging thermal environments, rarely considering the previous environment from which occupants came and how it affects their thermal sense. Furthermore, when it comes to thermal design, we ignore our variety-seeking tendencies. Buildings create a wealth of visual and aural stimulation, but miss the opportunity to create a range of thermal experience.
Our insistence on designing for static, one-dimensional thermal sensation almost guarantees thermal discomfort instead of thermal comfort. Today’s architect needs to understand how human perception and impression is influenced outside of the aesthetic, particularly through the thermal experience. We propose a process by which thermal sequencing and variation can be used to solve situations of thermal discomfort and promote improved thermal comfort perception. The result will be dynamic thermal design for the whole-self — physical, physiological and psychological — employing an understanding of neuroscience and the tools of architecture (buildings and systems), operations management (protocols and schedules), and product design (tools and equipment) to optimize desired results through an interconnected experience design.