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ASHRAE Journal Podcast Episode 24

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Left, Robert Bean; Peter Simmonds

Thermal Comfort

Join Robert Bean, Fellow ASHRAE, and Peter Simmonds, Ph.D., Fellow Life Member of ASHRAE, as they discuss thermal comfort in buildings and the application of ASHRAE Standard 55, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy, in real-world settings.

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  • Guest Bios

    Robert Bean, Fellow ASHRAE, is director of, and founder of Indoor Climate Consultants Inc. He is a retired engineering technology professional who specialized in the design of indoor environments and high-performance building systems. Bean is an ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer, instructor for the ASHRAE Learning Institute, and recipient of the Lou Flagg and Distinguished Service awards. He has authored many papers, articles and course curriculums and serves on numerous technical committees related to indoor environmental quality, building and energy systems.

    Peter Simmonds, Ph.D., Fellow/Life Member of ASHRAE, is the managing director/principal of Building and Systems Analytics LLC. Dr. Simmonds has twice chaired Technical Committee 9.12, Tall Buildings, and is a member of TC 2.1, Physiology and Human Environment; TC 6.5, Radiant Heating and Cooling; and TC 7.5, Smart Building Systems. He is a consultant for both the Standard 55 and Standard 62.1 groups and is a past President of the College of Fellows. Dr. Simmonds is a recognized authority in the field of radiant heating and cooling systems, low-energy buildings and systems, and occupant comfort. The main goals of his research and applications have been to understand the heat transfer and performance of radiant systems and occupant comfort for both heating and cooling.
    Dr. Simmonds received The Crosby Field Award in 2019 and the John F. James International Award in 2020 from ASHRAE. He has also been awarded the ASHRAE Distinguished Service and Exceptional Service awards. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and another in Research and Development from Reading Technical College in England as well as a master’s degree from Hogere Technische School, Den Bosch, The Netherlands.

  • Transcription

    ASHRAE Journal:

    ASHRAE Journal presents...

    Episode 24, Robert Bean and Dr. Peter Simmonds discuss thermal comfort in buildings in the application of ASHRAE Standard 55 in real world settings. Robert Bean is Director of and founder of Indoor Climate Consultants Incorporated. He is a retired engineering technology professional who specialize in the design of indoor environments and high performance building systems. Dr. Peter Simmonds is the Managing Director and Principal of Building and System Analytics, LLC and is a recognized authority in the field of radiant heating and cooling systems, low energy buildings and systems and occupant comfort.

    Robert Bean:

    Peter, how the hell are you?

    Peter Simmonds:

    Very well indeed, sir.

    Robert Bean:

    Good. We have this opportunity to share some of the knowledge that we have on our area of expertise, which is indoor environments and architecture and geometry and enclosure performance and all the stuff that's haunted us for many, many years. Hey, when did we first meet?

    Peter Simmonds:

    That was going to be my first question to you, wasn't it?

    Robert Bean:

    I hope you can remember, because I can't. I know where it was. It was in Calgary.

    Peter Simmonds:

    In Calgary. There was some hydronics conference because Robert Petitjean was there.

    Robert Bean:

    That's right.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Professor Petitjean.

    Robert Bean:

    What I was doing there, I don't know. I think it was in one of the preliminary days of radiant stuff somehow or other, because O’Rourke was there.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Yup. I think you were doing... Was it radiant cooling?

    Robert Bean:

    Probably, but just after Bangkok airport.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Oh, it might have been before then. Because I had to be in the US. So, it was any time after '94.

    Robert Bean:

    It was interesting, because that conference, I was the chair of that conference and what was happening in our provincial marketplace was a lot of people thought that they knew what they were doing. I wanted to bring in a bunch of people that were operating at a much higher level just to create a benchmark for a marketplace that they realized just exactly what they didn't know. One of the comments that ran through our feedback all the time was, "Well, it went way over our head," which was exactly what I wanted to have happen.

    Got people to understand that you think you know stuff. The reality is that there's a big, big gap between what practitioners need to know and what is actually occurring in the industry. You've seen that in all the projects that you've worked in around the world where you look at projects and you look at them. Right away, you can tell there's going to be problems.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Things haven't changed in 30 years. There are still lots of people that think they understand the technology and a far larger group of people that want to jump on the bandwagon to try and emulate the projects or understand comfort without understanding the fundamentals. Even up until recent times, actually, High Performance magazine, they put out there were people winning awards there and still only quoting thermal comfort as being 74 degrees Fahrenheit. End of story.

    Robert Bean:

    We've seen that in building programs too, that they fill out a form and say it complies with ASHRAE 55. Yeah. One of the things that we've been trying to hammer home with the design community is that load calculations are not thermal comfort design and HVAC design in of itself is not thermal comfort design. You're like three quarters of the way there with the load calculations. If I think about a single zone in a space, a rogue zone, you can tell it's going to have a thermal comfort issue. What do you think? Another 30 minutes of analysts analyzing the zone and you could figure out what the problems are and come up with a solution, if that, 15 minutes?

    Peter Simmonds:

    Yeah, I mean we talk about history. You and I, we're not seeing our yet. We can still remember. I mean, we've done the ASHRAE research project 1766, which gives engineers a fantastic tool to go in there and analyze the space, which actually explains what the space is and also gives you thermal comfort of what's going to be in the space. So, it's there. Do we see it used? The answer is no. People that still go on for LEED and try and get the LEED points, they still use that psychrometric chart, which I believe in the latest version of 55 has actually been dropped after all these years.

    Robert Bean:

    Yeah, it's going to go over or has been gone, which is, thank goodness, because it became... I want to say like a dart board. They'd pull out that psychrometric chart and then they would throw their dart. As long as it landed within the boundary conditions, then of course, they said it complied, but no one actually looked at the other factors that make a huge difference in compliance with the standards. So, yeah, it's good that it's gone. For those that are listening to the podcast, you need to put that away. It's actually created a bunch of problems over the years.

    Peter Simmonds:

    I think one of the things, I choose my words carefully, my observation here is that from the point of ASHRAE, so ASHRAE as far as America’s concerned and Canada, ASHRAE 55 is the thermal comfort standard, because it's the only one. Lots of people turn around and say it's a standard. It's not a design guide. Well, it is a design guide when an engineer has to comply to that standard, because you design to what's written in the standard. This is one thing that still falls, it's like between a rock and a hard place. It's out there and no one does anything. That standard, I won't knock all the rest of the standard, but that standard should be written now. So, in the case of a user's manual or that failed, even the authors recommended that the user's manual is not worthy to say the least.

    But when you look at it, it should be something out there that explains it that does thermal comfort for dummies for example. That's going to get a lot of people going, but we just need to bring it back to basic or enforce it, make it mandatory, 90.1 and 62.1, 62.1 as a series of calculations. If you don't do the calculations as per 62.1, you do not comply. So, why not have it with thermal comfort? If you do not comply, not with the graphic again but with the math or the calculator, what's going to happen in there? If you don't comply, you don't get the thermal comfort. Simple as that. But that could be put into the standard and it needs to be how well one chooses, which I would say would be ASHRAE, who wants to enforce that standard.

    Robert Bean:

    You and I have had many, many discussions all over the world in different bars and solving the world problems. We don't always agree on everything, but one of the things that we do agree on is that the standard out of all of ASHRAE standards is one of the most powerful ones at our disposal as practitioners in terms of influencing architecture. I mean we even have a trademarked statement: design for people, good buildings will follow. That really comes down to 55. By using the standard to analyze the environments, the resulting environments, tells us a lot about the geometry of the building, the orientation of the building, the performance of the enclosure.

    By tweaking these things, you can bring a space into compliance with 55, rather than doing it the other way around, which we see all the time where designers, architects will create a building and then they hand the building off to the mechanical people and say, "Okay, now make it comfortable." Comfortable is throwing out like loose leaf paper and they don't really understand what that means. Of course, it's far more—I don't want to say complicated because it's not actually a complicated procedure, but you have to include a lot of different factors in terms of finding if it's going to be compliant or not.

    Think about one of the jobs that you've done, which is on your website, the Louis Vuitton building. For those that haven't seen that, it's like somebody took a piece of paper and crumpled it up and that's our building now. It's a nice piece of crumpled up paper, but I mean the analysis that you had to do in a couple of those spaces was that was a brain twister.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Let's talk about Louis Vuitton. Just phenomenal project. Louis Vuitton was actually quite good, because we enforced the thermal comfort because what happens in the modern day? So Louis Vuitton, very simple, I think is 11 galleries. All the galleries are 500 square meters or 5,000 square feet. But in the modern day galleries, what they do is, well, there's art on there, all galleries are closed on the Monday, and groups go through there, but they rent them out now for events. If someone's retirement or someone doing it, and then all of a sudden, you get 500 people in there. Now, that's when 500 people then, if they're not comfortable, then it's a big negative. So, that's what you need to do.

    Now, obviously, you've got to protect the artwork with the humidity and with temperatures the same thing. So, you've got to treat the people in the same way. You have to do it. That was one of the main things that Louis Vuitton were on board every time saying, "Okay, what are the conditions going to be in the space?" We told them what we could show them, because we've done the calculations. We explained what PPD is. PMV, I understand it from an academic point of view, shows you whether you're hot or cold, but it's too complicated for the man on the street. We should go back just to the PPD and it's very simple. Less than 10% is good, higher than 10% isn't good, as simple as that. Then we can go onto PMV. So, we need to do that.

    One of the things that I would do is we very went straight into Louis Vuitton, but what we need to get cognizant about is the number of people that are in buildings. It doesn't really matter if there are people in there. So, if there are 10 people in the building, 25 people, two people in the space, four people in the space, what about open plan offices with 100 people, 150 people? What about some of these big things? Just drive around New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and look at these buildings in there where they've got 5,000, 6,000 people in there at least. Now, one of the things where it got off to a bad foot was many years ago, it came out there that they would say, "Well, if you increase your thermal comfort, you'll increase the productivity."

    Well, it's not going to be an out. Otherwise, every bank in New York would turn around and say, "We want to go thermal comfort, because we're going to get another 10% work out of our people." It's not that, but what it is they will be sick 10%, 15% less than they are at present. But when you look at it, there's been no work done whatsoever over the period of years to actually go in there and put some numbers behind that. So, they could go back to BOMA or other organizations or any developer or any architect and say, "Look, this is what we're looking at for the number of people."

    An architect considers the number of people in the building when they look at what the elevators are going to be and what the egress is going to be in a fire. So, you can't say we ignore these people. That's one of the things that would enforce the application and the understanding of thermal comfort when you start looking about how many people it influences.

    Robert Bean:

    Yeah, this whole thing about productivity is interesting. If I had another lifetime, another career, I would definitely put up time-lapse photography inside spaces and watch people as they enter their offices and then what they do to get comfortable. Because we've seen in hospitals for example, where in an office space in a hospital, people will come in on a Monday morning and literally, I've got photographs where they take duct tape and tape up the diffusers over top of their desk to stop the draft. Then Friday at the end of the work week, they go away. Then the building service people come in on the weekend and they take the duct tape down and then it's a cat and mouse game. They do that every week of the year.

    Then all you have to do is drive around. You and I have been into many, many cities. You drive around, there's bankers boxes parallel up against windows. There's whatever that they can do to reduce the solar glare and the solar heat that they're experiencing in those spaces. That time to get settled into a comfortable space is lost time.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Agreed. I mean where we board it on with what you just mentioned there is one could describe the duct tape and the boxes and other bits of pieces in there. There's personal controls. Obviously, the people, it doesn't just happen. You don't get the monkeys in from the zoo at nighttime to put the duct tape up and the rest. So, I'm not saying that people are monkeys. I'm just saying that people do it because they do not like the system which they're in. A lot of it is not necessarily due to the conditions. It's also they're forced to be in there. They don't want to be in that space.

    So, anything they want to complain about, but however, again, those people should be listened to and they're not listened to because someone turns around and says, "Okay, it's so many BTU per square foot or so many watts per square meter. That's the load. We got this, we got the magical air going in there, and everybody's happy." A majority of people are happier or majority of people just don't want to complain. When you look at it, I mean who gets the complaints in the buildings. Now, what is the thermal comfort complaint? I'm uncomfortable. Yeah. Okay, so describe it further. Again, this is slightly where 55 again falls on its sword, just a little sword, but it falls on its sword in how you describe it. It says too warm and too cold or whatever. But describe actually how someone can be.

    What about humidity at that? What about another thing? You and I know this. One of the big things that hardly anybody, I'm not saying everybody, but hardly anybody looks at, is look at the radiant temperature, the radiant asymmetry in a space. How many times is it that we go into a space and we help an architect return around and say we're going to put them floor to ceiling glass in there? So all of a sudden, instead of a 4.2 floor to floor, you end up with it with 3.6 meters high of glass and people want to get by the glass to have a look outside and to see what's happening and see if the world's all there.

    Not realizing that inside surface temperature of that glass can be 30, 35 degrees, looking at them the whole day. Space conditions can be 20, 24 degrees, but you got 30 of that glass. Who looks at that? Now, try explaining that to an architect. That glass has got an inside surface temperature, end of story, panic, mayhem.

    Robert Bean:

    Well, one of the problems with that is most people believe that the job of the mechanical engineer is to heat the person or heat the space which heats the person or cools the space which cools the person. The reality is that what we're trying to do in the heating mode is get people to retain their own body heat. In the cooling mode, we're trying to get them to reject their body heat. The big mechanism there, a lot of people think that air temperature is the end all to be all and it isn't. I mean 60% of the sensible heat transfer from a person to the space is radiant. Yet 99% of most thermostats don't even measure it. So, if you want somebody to retain body heat, the last thing you want them to do is be surrounded by cool surfaces.

    So, you think about where I'm from, it gets to -40 degrees C, -40 F, that's why they call it -40 F and C. It's cold, it's freaking cold. Well, even high performance glass, triple pane, argon filled fiberglass frame glass, -40 degrees, you're still getting surface temperatures in Fahrenheit for our American audience, that is in the 55 degree Fahrenheit range. Well, if your body is running that around anywhere from 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, depending where you have measured on the outside, well, there's your delta T. It's nothing more than a heat exchange or calculation. That's all it is.

    So, you've got surface area, you've got a heat transfer coefficient, and you have a delta T. Engineers can figure that out. The same thing goes if you want people to cool off, they need to discharge heat and it's an energy discharge. Well, if the glass temperatures, what were you saying like 35, 40 degrees Celsius, where's your body going to discharge that heat if that surface is so hot? You can't do it.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Well, it's going to be sick, it's going to stay at home. It goes back to productivity. It goes negative productivity. But see you bring up another point there, which is again stepping outside of a standard of what was there. I am not a proponent for LEED except for one reason. LEED was very, very good in the US because it brought all the partners around the table, the design partners at the beginning of a project, very typically, this is the hierarchy of construction in the US and many other places around the world, an architect designs a building with the owner or with a developer and it goes in there.

    What he doesn't want to happen is that the mechanical engineer turns around and says, "You can't put that glass in the building. You can't do that because the occupants are going to be uncomfortable." It's a no-go. They just won't listen. They don't care except who do they come crying to when it doesn't work? Then it's a mechanical engineer and then you can throw 55 at them and say do this. Then you get the rebuttal saying, "Well, why didn't you tell me about this?" Well, you wouldn't let me sit at the table. So, getting that from 30 years of frustration of doing this is somehow or another the thermal comfort standard and let's talk about it for 55 in the US. I mean you look how strong the ISO 7730 is in Europe. It goes on there when they do a building permit, we got anything later and say, "Does it comply with ISO 7730?" No, why not do the same in the US? Put it up front. We run the thing in a concept design, we go in there, we can show whatever happens that it's going to be comfortable. Or the thing that the architect doesn't want to hear but does want to hear before he starts construction is the space is going to be uncomfortable. You go in there. You can go from old things [unintelligible]. Look at the State of Illinois Center all those years ago when people actually had umbrellas above their desks to stop the solar radiation. Going back a few years now, what was that? You could do it manually, but no one didn't.

    After that helmet yard, never missed a beat of looking at what the solar radiation was going to be at space and on the occupants and go back to square one again. Oh, gee, we got occupants in the space. We've done HSBC in London. I think I'm allowed to say that. Well, I'm saying it now in the trading floor, 600 traders on the floor, 1,800, 200 complaints a week. We are not comfortable. So, we have people in there and we go there and we start looking at things and we say, "Okay, well, we took them in. So, what do you understand about comfort?" Well, yeah, it's too hot. Yeah, okay. We've gone through that. We could show them that. Then we started looking at the people in there. So, there were men in three-piece suits and women in summer dresses, light dresses.

    So, we made little cartoons so people would understand what it is. When we finished that, the refurbishment, it took about four months, three months. Most of it was with controls. So, we had running a dynamic, PPD, PMV control that would come on there that would adjust the settings. It went down to one complaint. We've gone from 200 down to 1, so let's have a look at that one complaint, what they complained about. So, they moved that person for a couple of weeks while they were measuring what was going on in the desk and under the desk and airflow. That person had no complaint. So, there was a complaint. It was just sitting in the wrong place. It's how you can apply it, as I say, to resolve a problem.

    Robert Bean:

    So that's an after the fact case. Before I retired, we had several passive house projects come through for analysis and beautiful homes in Vancouver, a gorgeous view of the mountains and the oceans. A skilled practitioner can literally within a minute can look at a rogue zone and say, "That's going to be a problem." We did that. Even though the house enclosure was as good as you're going to get, they were going to have overheating problems. We were able to determine that before the building had the final design. Good on the architects and good on the builders to actually say, "Listen, we like what we see, but that's just for giggles. Run this through a thermal comfort analysis."

    We were able to pick up the window to the wall ratios were out of whack and adding in some external shading and what was going to take care of that. So, that solved a whole bunch of problems that could have occurred after the fact. So, you have a client that builds a beautiful home, pays thousands and thousands of dollars for architectural and engineering fees, and only to have the client complain that they can't sit in the space. We should talk about that. I don't know what the construction costs are.

    You're in the Netherlands now, but if you look at an office space in an office building and whatever, $300 a square foot and if you can't occupy 20% of it because it's too loud, too noisy, too hot, too cold, well, all of a sudden, the actual construction cost for usable space goes up by probably 30, 40%. When you think about the development of unusable space, the material costs, the energy costs, the financial costs that go along with that in one office, in one building, now how many office towers you get on a block, right? Now, how many offices are in a city and how many cities around the world have offices that are like that? You begin to see the global scope of the consequences of poorly designed spaces, because you can't occupy them because they're uncomfortable.

    Peter Simmonds:

    No, and the other analogy when you have an office building is if you ask everybody, you give a lecture. So, what automobile do you have? Who's got a Lexus? Who's got a BMW? Who's got the Audi or something? People say, "Yeah." Say, okay, next time that car needs a service, I want you to take it down to the local fire station and park it out the front and throw the keys inside and say, "Okay, just give it the service and everything." I can see Robert looking at me. Lots of people are saying, "You are damn crazy." So why is it when you build a building of $200 million, you give the keys to the janitor. This is some guy who's expert in life is cleaning things, getting graffiti off the walls, making sure all the garbage is taken, everything.

    What he doesn't want to do now is have to play around and listen to X number of people living there or whatever working in that space, turning around saying, "It is not comfortable. I don't like the noise." This is the foresight. I think we're probably drifting slightly from thermal comfort when we look at it from thermal comfort. You were talking about these different buildings. I've been lucky enough to work on a building. It's a residential building in Seattle. We can't tell you who it's for, but the design brief was that the owner wanted to read the Sunday paper in the winter garden 52 weeks of the year. So, basically, it was a glass box exposed in Seattle for 52 weeks of year.

    Now, there was a challenge. We came up and we explained many, many hours of explaining, looking at different types of glass, looking at different things of getting down to it. At the end of it, this guy knows the PPD inside out. He knows thermal comfort. He knows radiant asymmetry because we got him to sign off on it. There's no point in saying we build a space and he's doing it now. One essential discussion we had was you've got to spend some time, you've got to understand how it works, what we are doing for you. If you don't like it, then we won't do it. We'll carry on and try and find something that you do like, but we're telling you this is the best thing to do. Afterwards, he was great. It hasn't quite finished yet, but he's very excited to go in there knowing it's going to be there. We are very excited about not getting sued.

    Robert Bean:

    I would say in my career, one of the defining moments was we were working with a client that was building a large industrial facility. It was about 100,000 square feet and the whole design of the facility was driven by thermal comfort, ASHRAE Standard 55. So, we were able to work with the designers on the enclosure performance, window to wall ratios, the window performance, everything to get the loads down as low as we possibly could, and then using the mechanical systems to make up the difference. We used radiant floor heating in that facility. I was down in, I think it was Arizona or something like that for some conference and I get a call from Andy, the operations manager, and he says, "Robert, it's -40 here degrees Fahrenheit. I know your design temperature was 110, supply temperature worth 95, return temperature going back to the boilers and they're working great and everybody here is absolutely comfortable, but we want to lower the temperature. We want to see what we can do at -40 degrees." At -40 degrees, people need to understand that most people are cranking up their temperatures but not that facility. They wanted to see how low they could go.

    So, by using ASHRAE 55 to drive the architectural design, we were able to use low temperature heating. If we were doing cooling in that, we could do high temperature cooling and the equipment would be performing exactly as the manufacturers intended it to. I mean the efficiencies we were getting into those condensing boiler was phenomenal. At peak load, he finally called back, he says, "We figured out that we could probably take this building into 90 degrees Fahrenheit supply temperature." Yeah, -40 degrees, big huge industrial facility, that's what 55 does for design.

    Peter Simmonds:

    We had something very similar with the clothing manufacturing, Americans building manufacturer who I can't mention, but they had a large distribution center up in Reno, Nevada. Now working in Reno, Nevada, that's a whole experience. We go there. So, they had these things. Again, I think it was 140,000, 160,000 square feet was this distribution center. We got caught with the fact, we got caught off balance, because the person doing the system, the heating system, and we had a radiant system in there, heating and cooling in a ceiling was the local plumber. That was it. He was partner from the contractor. That's who the contractor selected. So, this guy come out there and I know that we sized it all out for a ridiculous price, about $350,000.

    I'm going back 20 odd years now, right? They wouldn't let it. So, they got the client to issue an order for $600,000 to do this. Everything was wrong. So, we got the whole thing, got it installed. We have these panels. These panels were like 30 foot long and about four-foot, six-foot wide. When they went up on the ceiling, they were looking like postage stamps, looking at underneath the roof. One day, there's a real cold snap, because Reno gets cold and they've been icing everything. These guys are playing touch football in there in T-shirts at lunchtime. They're all coming up saying, "Where does this thing come from?" Then the plumber, who was my new best friend in the whole world, come and told me that "We've done it."

    He said, he just put all his time materials in and it came to $350,000. So, I told you that. I said, "But you got $600,000, you better give him $250,000 back." He chased me out of building because that wasn't right. But the fact of the matter is the frustrating thing about thermal comfort is when you get it right and both you and I have got it right, nobody talks about it because it's not there. There's nothing to complain about. Unfortunately, people in their work because a lot of it is stress induced or just who they're working for or they don't like the work they're doing, they will find anything to complain about.

    That's one of the things that if you can remove the fact that comfort isn't one of their things or being uncomfortable is one of the things that they could complain about, you removed that, you've made the life a lot easier for the janitor and for the owner as well. That's one of the big things, but you and I have had this discussion many times. How could we change it? How could we improve it to bring it up to something which would be that basically every engineer, design engineer in the US and Canada or even in the world has a copy of Standard 55 on their desk? Is it sufficient to allow people to understand it?

    I mean, there's a lot of bits of blurb in there that to me are just pure academical, no disrespect to the academics, but it needs to be made that it's in a practical thing and maybe go out there with this high performance magazine, which I believe isn't there anymore, is do something and have a look of how many times that actually ASHRAE Standard 55 has been employed in building designs and what the outcomes are. Be positive. Have a look at this.

    Robert Bean:

    Yeah. Well, two thoughts came up to my mind here. One of them had to do with, again, designing from the inside out. Before the architects get involved, establish the conditions that you actually want inside that space from all of the environmental factors, whether it's lighting, sound, odors, vibration, air quality, thermal comfort, and working outwards from those specifications. I remember a project that we did where again, we were involved in the enclosure design as well as the mechanical systems. In the final approved drawings, we had an enclosure that had exterior insulation on it. That was there to reduce the thermal bridging and it simplified our design.

    Again, it was a hybrid system, all radiant floor heating, and it allowed us to operate the system at a single temperature. So, this was a larger building. So, we got rid of all the mixing valves, all the complications. It was just the condensing boiler, the distribution piping, and then all of the zones. It was elegant. We even convinced the owner to use thermostatic radiator valves. We got rid of all the high-tech smart stuff. We didn't need it because the building was going to take care of a lot of it. Then I went out for a site visit, unscheduled site visit. I was actually just driving by the project, said, "I might as well just drop in and I'm out." Then as I'm driving closer to the building, I realize that they're starting to put siding on the building and the windows are in and there's no exterior insulation.

    I couldn't believe what I was seeing after all that work that we did, all the engineering, all the fees that we were paid to do the design and the general contractor had made the decision, "We don't need that exterior insulation." So I had to pull the owner aside and say, "Look, this is the consequences. By eliminating this, you've changed the indoor environment and you're not going to be happy. You're going to have spaces in there that are going to be uncomfortable. The consequences are we have to redo a redesign on the mechanical system."

    So, ultimately, what we ended up with was with three or four mixing valves and multiple circulators. So, it's always a trade-off. If you don't fix it with the enclosure, which has no moving parts, you're going to fix it with the mechanical system, which has more complexity and more moving parts. So, you decide what you want to do. If it was my building, simple, let the building do most of the work. Put in a simple mechanical system and Bob's your uncle, or in this case, Robert.

    Peter Simmonds:

    I'm not disagreeing. I mean one of my personal beefs when we do anything like this is I've gone on record of saying that America is the cheapest country in the world when it comes to construction and people start looking at me, if I may say so. What about in the far east? People in China are like, "What about our developing countries?" America is the only place where they turn around and get a bunch of MBA geeks that have never been in a building before, turn around to the client. Well, the train's running down a track. So, you're under construction. We can save you $200,000 or a half million dollars or X amount of this and we can do this. We've looked at all these rest of these buildings that have been over 10 years. So, here's what we can do. We're going to take this equipment out. I can tell you now, that's the first word they put down is a C for controls. They go in there and they turn around and say, "Well, we've got it, but why do you have a control in each room? We've been through this in the design. We got occupancy controls. The controller controls the lighting, everything. We got everything." Yeah, but on my last job, which was no head TAV, I had one thermostat for six rooms on one box. So, let's just put one thermostat in there for six. Look how much money I can save you. Then the train finally gets to the station, it's in there and everyone's happy. Then you get the chief engineer comes up and says, "Well, how can I operate this? What can I do?" Well, yeah, you've got that thermostat. Yeah, but what about this room? Yeah.

    Then they start throwing the lawsuits around and say, "What does it cost?" Well, it's going to cost you a downside, more than a half million you've saved on getting the thermostats because it's perception. But if you have, luckily, and this is the thing, an owner occupier, but you don't get many large buildings with owner occupiers. If you have an owner occupier, you can sit down and tell them with the architect, "This is what you're going to get, this is what we're looking at." The contractor, because the contractor, the GMP, guaranteed maximum price, doesn't mean that. It means GMP, guaranteed maximum profit. Those guys, those contractors, they know exactly what they're going to get out of the job and everything like that.

    So, when it comes down to a choice, are we going to pay the extra money for the bathroom fittings or are we going to pay for those controls, which we didn't have in our last 20 jobs? Then you should see how nice the bathroom fit is, because it's the end of discussion. That's what we have until people complain. Until you get people on the floor, 120, 150 people on the floor and it's a bad system or an incorrect system for that space, what you're doing there and how do you do it? You can't put a plaster on it. It's there. Thermal comfort really is your protection insurance policy about complaints and what's going on down the line when the building gets there.

    Robert Bean:

    Peter, we're getting towards the end of our discussion here. We'll have to pick it up again in another city in another place, which I always like to do. Let's talk a little bit about the standard itself. There's a lot of myths around it, and one of the ones that I always hear is that well, it's too restrictive. It's almost impossible to satisfy and people need to understand it's probably one of the most flexible, diverse standards that ASHRAE has. You don't have to have a 72 degree dry ball temperature. Nowhere in the standard does it say that, that you must have 72 degrees.

    Peter Simmonds:

    No, but I would agree. But I think that we said we were going to make peace and not have gloves off and talk about the standard. One of the things that the standard does do, because it's written, because I said as ASHRAE standards are, it needs to get to the point very quickly. It needs something in there that explains what it is. Yes, it has everything in there. You know as well as I do, a majority of it is written by academics. Extremely clever people, extremely knowledgeable people. Unfortunately, they need to understand the construction world and the construction design engineers that are working in that when it comes in there and it needs to be there.

    As I say, yes, it's a standard and it meets everything from what the standard is. But when you're a design engineer and you've got to design a space which will comply with 55, it then becomes a design guide. You have to acknowledge that, and that's where it fails. It wouldn't take much to get it in there to understand what it would be. It would take a bit of work, but hey, look at all the work they're doing now on decarbonization. Look at all the work that's been going on about COVID and all the rest of this.

    If you got the boffins together and a few good contractors and you said, "What about doing this and this?", you can have one in six months in my mind, a really, really usable standard. It would benefit ASHRAE. It would benefit everybody. But presently, you know as well as I do, how many people will actually take the time to wrestle their way through it? Because the standard is 50 pages, but I think there's only about less than 10 pages, which are really the crux of the whole thing.

    Robert Bean:

    Yeah. Well, almost for 20 years now, I've done surveys of students in my audiences, and the consolidated story here is that less than 1% of practitioners can actually do a compliance test. I've done that survey with 600 people in a room and with 20 people in a room. I've been doing it for 20 years and the numbers are still the same. Less than 1% of practitioners can actually do a compliance test. That's wrong. I mean, if you think about any other profession, healthcare, air traffic controllers, fire, lawyers, accountants, whatever, if there was only 1% literacy in those professions, they would be sued like crazy. But for some reason, it baffles me that we have such low literacy when it comes to thermal comfort.

    You do make a good point. It's not an easy standard to apply. However, once you get your head wrapped around it, you begin to see just incredibly how valuable it is. We've used it to change the way architects design buildings, not so much on the geometry of the buildings, and obviously, orientation, sometimes you can't do anything with it. But in terms of the performance of the enclosure, performance of the glass, and the types of mechanical systems that they use. How many times have you gone into a job where there's a radiant problem and they've tried to solve it with a convective solution or a convective solution where there's a radiant issue? Getting them to understand you solve radiant problems with radiant solutions and convective problems with convective solutions. Don't try to mix the two. Well 55 exposes that.

    Peter Simmonds:

    Or you use it to your benefit. I mean, we've done it. We've done the Kravis building at the Claremont McKenna College in Claremont in California, so East of Los Angeles. So, just bordering on the desert and everything. So, that tells you something that's not heating climate, but it's in there. The architect is also world renowned for different reasons. So, we put a glass box in the middle of the courtyard that wasn't shaded either by any of the buildings. The idea was that you could look down this. You could see the water floating on the top of the building and around it, but it was glass, even the structure of the glass. Did it make sense? Absolutely not.

    But the fact is it was a challenge that on hot sunny afternoons, they could go in there, they could sit in there, and they could be comfortable. We made it comfortable and there's no complaints. You don't hear about it because it's there. Now, one could ask the rationale. Well, we would be just as comfortable if it was nice and warm like that, to sit outside on a bench in a grassy knoll somewhere or to sit in the building, but that doesn't matter. So, the challenge being is this architect wanted that there and we put it there and we made it and we used 55, the thermal comfort, which was the design criteria and operating criteria for it.

    So, it's strong and it's in there. I mean it's a pity really, because when you look at it, I mean, it's got a lot of ballast in it, 55, it's got a lot of good stuff from an academic point of view. I mean, go and ask the average design engineer, does he care what somebody wears to work? The clothing ensemble. I'm going out on a limb here, but how much really does the clothing affect the results, the overall results? It will affect them, but is it as drastic as the mean radiant temperature? Is it drastic as a draft? Is it whatever? What I'm trying to say is put it in perspective.

    Robert Bean:

    Well, that's a good point because I was about to just defend the knowledge of clothing, but you're right. I mean, if the enclosure isn't so aggressive or so flawed, the clothing becomes less of an issue. It's when the enclosure has failures and thermal failures that the clothing actually now becomes... Yeah, I never thought about it that way. So, we have to keep having these talks and maybe ASHRAE will give us another opportunity to keep talking about the standard and different projects. But to put some closure on this, you and I have been practitioners for decades. I've done in my career industrial buildings and residential buildings. You've done large mega tall buildings and unique buildings all over the world.

    We've applied what we know with 55 successfully, using it to design from the inside out rather than the outside in. We know it works. We know how it's influenced architecture and mechanical systems. We just encourage the listeners to pick up the standard and learn it and work with your design clients and apply it, because you'll just end up with much better buildings. It's funny how when you have good buildings that you'll end up with the conservation and the efficiency that everybody is driving for, but the reality is it starts with the people.

    ASHRAE Journal:

    The ASHRAE Journal podcast team is managing editor, Kelly Barraza; producer and associate editor, Chadd Jones; assistant editor, Kaitlyn Baich; associate editor, Tani Palefski and technical editor, Rebecca Matyasovski. Copyright ASHRAE. The views expressed in this podcast are those of individuals only and not of ASHRAE, its sponsors or advertisers. Please refer to for the full disclaimer.