Variability Is a Part of Comfort

We're getting our first few real days of winter here in Chicago, with daytime highs in the single digits and windchills below zero. That brings all sorts of challenges and hazards, but it also brings an element I don't think most think about: delight. 

Think about stepping in from the freezing cold into a warm building. That first snuggly feeling of not being freezing cold — it's delightful. And the opposite is true: stepping out, all bundled up, into the chill of a frosty night — that can be downright magical, especially if it's snowing those tiny icy snowflakes that glitter like diamonds in the streetlights. But once we spend more time in the same environment, chilly or warm, the delight is lost. 

That makes me think about a conference presentation I attended regarding thermal comfort in the built environment. The presenters argued that facility managers shouldn't quest for a static temperature throughout the building. Not only would it not perfectly suit everyone anyway, it would also create a static environment that robs the occupant of the ability to move from one thermal environment to another. It would be boring, which would ultimately remove comfort. 

Don't get me wrong. The presenters were not arguing for improper HVAC management. Instead, they argued that a variance in temperatures could be appropriately designed into the space to accommodate individual preference and elicit moments of thermal delight, among other benefits. This strategy would need to work in concert with a free desking concept so nobody became trapped in a space they found uncomfortable. I found the idea, well, delightful. What do you think? 

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