3.5 Building types and climate

Many of the considerations in the Ventilation chapter on building types and climate also apply to thermal comfort. The section in this chapter provides additional information specifically related to thermal comfort.

3.5.1 Renovation of residential buildings

Many house owners are interested in improving energy performance as part of a renovation. This will generally improve thermal comfort during winter, as interior surface temperatures are increased; it is easier to maintain the desired temperature and draughts are less likely. However, renovation can also increase the tendency to overheating. In many situations, measures to prevent overheating need to be added that were not used before the renovation – otherwise overheating is likely to occur more frequently (Orme, 2003; Carmichael, 2011).

Ventilative cooling by natural ventilation, combined with dynamic, external solar shading, has proved to be successful (Foldbjerg et al., 2013C). Solar protective glazing is an economical alternative to external shading that can be efficient at preventing overheating, but reduces the window's energy performance during winter and reduces daylight transmittance. It is particularly important to prevent overheating in bedrooms, as it has a negative impact on sleep quality (see section 3.2.3).

3.5.2 New residential buildings

New residential buildings usually face even greater overheating challenges than renovated buildings. However, in new building projects it is much simpler to include the right measures in the design phase, rather than fixing an inadequate design after the building is completed.

It is important to evaluate the performance on thermal comfort with reliable simulation tools, e.g. VELUX Energy and Indoor Climate Visualizer

3.5.3 Low-energy buildings

Overheating can occur in most residential and office buildings if no ventilation and solar shading strategy has been implemented from the start. In many buildings, overheating is handled by air conditioning, but natural ventilation (passive cooling) is a good substitute as it saves energy compared to air conditioning.

There have been many cases in the past few years of overheating in low-energy houses, where the main goal has been to achieve a low heating consumption. In these cases, passive technologies, such as solar shading and natural ventilation, are often not fully utilised (Larsen  et al., 2011).

Learnings from these cases have been to better implement natural ventilation and openable windows into the design of the building to prevent overheating, instead of installing mechanical cooling systems. Buildings built to “Active House” principles focus primarily on user well-being by creating a good indoor climate. In the design of Active Houses, solar shading and natural ventilation allow the full potential of passive cooling to be utilised.

3.5.4 Schools and kindergartens

There may be legislative requirements for the maximum temperature in schools and kindergartens. The following considerations can be used to prevent overheating:

  • In summer, opening windows has a good effect on both thermal comfort and indoor air quality and should be done frequently
  • Dynamic external solar shading efficiently reduces solar gains
  • Automatically controlled natural ventilation allows for the full potential
    of solar shading and natural ventilation and is recommended in schools. If the schedule of lessons and breaks is rarely changed, a schedule-based control of ventilation may be sufficient (Dhalluin et al., 2012).

Performance can be verified by a simulation in VELUX Energy and Indoor Climate Visualizer (see section 2.6.1), which determines temperatures and includes the effects of solar shading, ventilative cooling and solar protective glazing.

See Figure 3.5.2 for an example of measured thermal comfort in a kindergarten. VELUX roof windows perform well in schools. In larger rooms, VELUX Modular Skylights perform very well.

3.5.5 Commercial buildings

It is becoming a de facto standard in office buildings to include mechanical cooling (air conditioning) in the design, also in buildings in northern Europe. Some office buildings are designed without mechanical cooling, using natural or hybrid ventilation instead.

VELUX Modular Skylights are designed for use in commercial buildings and perform well as extract openings in an atrium roof. 

The solar shading that can be integrated in VELUX Modular Skylights, as well as the opportunity to open every second module, provides good opportunities to prevent overheating.

The control of shading and opening of VELUX Modular Skylights will often be performed by the building’s BMS system in a control setup that integrates all systems of the building.

3.5.6 Effects of climate change and urban heat islands

The risk of overheating in buildings will increase as outdoor temperatures increase due to climate change (Orme, 2007). Another effect influencing the risk of overheating is the “urban heat island” effect. Large and densely populated urban areas have a higher temperature than the surrounding countryside, most likely caused by the increased use of energy in urban areas. During the 2003 heat wave in London, temperature differences between the city and the surrounding rural areas at times exceeded 9°C (Carmichael et al., 2011). These two effects underline the importance of not only designing buildings to perform well under today’s outdoor conditions, but also considering the conditions that can be expected in the future at the building's location.

Example from the VELUX Model Home 2020 project, Maison air et Lumière

The thermal environment in Maison Air et Lumière has been evaluated according to Active House specifications (see section 3.6.4). The high daylight levels in the house increase the risk of overheating, so its prevention has been a top priority. The result is seen in figure 3.5.2. The house achieves category 1 (corresponding to EN 15251 category I (CEN, 2007)). This excellent performance is achieved by designing the house to take maximum advantage of natural ventilation, and to use shading and window openings to their full potential (Foldbjerg and Knudsen, 2014).

The thermal environment in Maison Air et Lumière has been evaluated according to Active House specifications The high daylight levels in the house increase the risk of overheating, so its prevention has been a top priority. 

The house achieves category 1 (corresponding to EN 15251 category I (CEN, 2007). This excellent performance is achieved by designing the house to take maximum advantage of natural ventilation and to use shading and window openings to their full potential (Foldbjerg and Knudsen, 2014).

Active House Category

Figure 3.5.1 Thermal comfort for each of the rooms in Maison Air et Lumière evaluated according to Active House specifications (based on adaptive method of EN 15251 (CEN, 2007)). Criteria are differentiated between high and low temperatures. 

Example from the Active House project, Solhuset

The kindergarten Solhuset in Denmark was built to Active House principles. It has good daylight conditions, so prevention of overheating has been a priority. External solar shading (awning blinds) and natural ventilation have been used in an automatically controlled system. The thermal comfort categories are seen on figure 3.5.2. It is clear that there is practically no overheating (no red or orange colours on the right side of the coloured bars) – it has been efficiently prevented. The results show that passive measures (solar shading and ventilative cooling) can also be applied in a kindergarten to efficiently prevent overheating (Foldbjerg et al, 2014B).

Active House Category

​Figure 3.5.2 Thermal comfort for each of the rooms in Solhuset evaluated according to Active House specifications. 
Carmichael, K., Anderson, M., Murray, V. (2011) Overheating and health : a review into the physiological response to heat and identification of indoor heat thresholds.
CEN (2007) EN 15251: Indoor environmental input parameters for design and assessment of energy performance of buildings.
Dhalluin, A.,Limam, K. (2012) Comparison of Natural and Hybrid Ventilation Strategies used in Classrooms in Terms of Indoor Environmental Quality, Comfort and Energy Savings. Indoor and Built Environment, 23(4), 527–542.doi:10.1177/1420326X12464077
Foldbjerg, P., Asmussen, T. F. (2013C) Ventilative cooling of residential buildings: strategies , measurement results and lessons-learned from three active houses in Austria , Germany and Denmark. In Proceedings of AIVC 2013.
Foldbjerg, P., Asmussen, T. F., Christoffersen, J. (2014B) Indoor Climate in a Danish Kindergarten built according to Active House Principles : Measured Thermal Comfort and use of Electrical Light. In AIVC conference 2014 (pp. 188–197)
Foldbjerg, P., Knudsen, H. N. (2014) Maison Air et Lumière a case from model home 2020 project. REHVA Journal (June), 55–57.
Larsen, T. S., Jensen, R. L., and Daniels, O. (2011) The Comfort Houses (p. 98) Aalborg University report.
Orme, M. (2003) Control of overheating in future housing, Design guidance for lowenergy strategies. Hertfordshire, UK: Faber Maunsell Ltd.