Increasing building automation to improve energy efficiency introduces a risk of reducing occupants' perceived control and overall comfort. To this end, this paper presents a field study that used contextual techniques to explore the relationship between occupants' perceived control and comfort, as well as their preferences for building automation. A total of 170 occupants in 23 Canadian university campus buildings were interviewed in their offices using semi-structured interviews. All interviews entailed verbally administering a survey while photographs were systematically used to identify the context of occupants' interactions with building controls. Findings revealed that occupants' perception of comfort was moderately correlated to their perception of control over their indoor environment. Occupants also showed an overwhelming preference for more control opportunities in their offices (e.g. operable windows and dimmable lighting controls). Conducting interviews in offices yielded many interesting anecdotes and enabled the researcher to identify contextual issues related to building controls' accessibility, which may have been unnoticed otherwise. The findings of this research contribute to a broader debate within the research community about the appropriate level of building automation to optimize energy efficiency and occupant comfort.
10th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation and Energy Conservation in Buildings, IAQVEC 2019
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ouf, M. (Mohamed), Tamas, R. (Ruth), & O'Brien, W. (2019). Usability and comfort in Canadian offices: Interview of 170 university employees. In IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering. doi:10.1088/1757-899X/609/4/042091