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Sensory and physiological assessment of spatial transient thermal environment changes at a tropical university campus

Nur Dalilah Dahlan (Department of Architecture, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia)
Amirhosein Ghaffarianhoseini (Built Environment Engineering, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Norhaslina Hassan (Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Smart and Sustainable Built Environment

ISSN: 2046-6099

Article publication date: 5 November 2020




Recent studies have found that the high demand for air-conditioning usage in tropical countries has affected the thermal adaptability of building occupants to hot weather, and increased building energy consumption. This pilot study aims to investigate the effects of transient thermal environment changes on participants' sensory and physiological responses.


The change of thermal perceptions, skin temperatures and core temperatures when exposed to transient thermal environments (cool-warm-cool) from 10 college-aged female participants during a simulated daily commute by foot to class in a tropical university campus were investigated. Subjective measurements were collected in real-time every 5 min.


The main finding suggests that participants were acclimatised to cool air-conditioned indoor environments, despite exhibiting significant mean skin temperature differences (p < 0.05). In addition, exposure to uniform air conditioning from 17 to 18°C for 20 min was thermally unacceptable and reduced concentration during given tasks.

Research limitations/implications

The study focused on thermal comfort conditions in a uniform air-conditioned lecture hall, and the findings may not be applicable for residential and other private building spaces. The distinct temperature difference between indoor and outdoor in the tropical built environment resulted in high dependence on air-conditioning usage. The building occupants' well-being and energy conservation implications of the findings are discussed.

Practical implications

This study provides the platform for discussion on the dynamics of occupants' comfort level and adopting a more variable thermal environment in tropical spatial transient thermal environments among architects and building management system managers. The findings from this study may contribute to the Malaysian Standards for Energy Efficiency and Use of Renewable Energy for Non-Residential Buildings (MS1525).


A knowledge gap in adaptive thermal comfort due to exposure from transient conditions in tropical university campus for energy efficiency revision has been investigated.



This study is funded by Putra Grant: UPM/700-2/1/GP/2017/9553300. The authors would like to thank all of the students who participated in this study.


Dahlan, N.D., Ghaffarianhoseini, A. and Hassan, N. (2020), "Sensory and physiological assessment of spatial transient thermal environment changes at a tropical university campus", Smart and Sustainable Built Environment, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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