Energy Performance and Thermal Comfort in a High-Rise University Halls of Residence

Title: Energy Performance and Thermal Comfort in a High Rise University Halls of Residence.

Researcher: Rucha Amin.

Supervisors: Despoina Teli.


In recent years there has been a growing interest in the gap between the theoretical ‘as designed’ and ‘actual performance’ of buildings (de Wilde 2014). This ’performance gap’ could be attributed in part to building construction and design. However, even buildings of high energy standards have been found to fail to perform as expected or satisfy their occupants, which could be attributed to the impact of occupant behaviour and their individual needs; indeed some studies suggest that more energy efficient buildings demonstrate a higher performance gap (Sunikka-Blank & Galvin 2012).

This project intends to investigate the impact of occupant-related parameters on energy performance using a newly built ‘BREEAM excellent’ University Halls of residence building as a case study. More specifically, it will address the challenge of achieving energy efficiency and comfortable indoor conditions in a building which accommodates international students with potentially very different and contradicting thermal comfort preferences and habits. The project is based on the adaptive thermal comfort theory (Nicol et al. 2012), which advocates that people adapt to their familiar environments, hence their thermal preferences are influenced accordingly. This can be expected to affect the energy performance of a building designed and operated to provide uniform thermal conditions to its occupants, regardless of their unique thermal preferences.

The study will include a post occupancy evaluation (POE) study and extensive thermal comfort surveys (Teli 2013), covering both subjective experience (questionnaires) and objective data (environmental monitoring) over a prolonged period, in order to identify the preferred indoor conditions of the occupants and how these evolve with time, as students adapt to their new living environment. Following this, collected data will be used as an input for energy simulation modelling to investigate insights into improving energy performance and reducing performance gap. Broadly speaking, the project aims to investigate design and operational measures for buildings, addressing the diversity of occupants’ thermal needs.


Nicol, F., Humphreys, M. and Roaf, S.(2012) Adaptive Thermal Comfort, Routledge.

Sunikka-Blank, M. & Galvin, R. (2012) Introducing the prebound effect: the gap between performance and actual energy consumption. Building Research & Information, 40(3), pp.260–273.

Teli, D. (2013) Thermal performance and occupant comfort in naturally ventilated UK junior schools outside the heating season. PhD Thesis, University of Southampton.

De Wilde, P. (2014) The gap between predicted and measured energy performance of buildings: A framework for investigation. Automation in Construction, 41, pp.40–49.

Posted in February, 2015