Due to the nature of the building, we anticipated from the start that thermal comfort, or lack of it, would be an issue that building users would want to address. However, it was also recognised early on by all parties that it would be difficult to bring about satisfactory change in this area.

Early stages of user interaction confirmed that thermal comfort was indeed an issue for DECC staff. Some staff felt that not enough was being done by the Sustainability and Estates team and Facilities Management to maintain thermal comfort. This perhaps stemmed from a feeling of not having control over the temperature in the area they were working in (see mental models in previous sections) as building users were not allowed to open certain windows, or to alter thermostats. Some even felt that carbon reduction was being pursued at their expense.

This made thermal comfort a prime candidate for an intervention and it was introduced to the Stage One Workshop. Participants in the Workshop suggested using DECC staff as ‘wet’ thermometers, to see if they could calibrate their thermal comfort to the temperatures being read by the ‘dry’ sensors in the ceilings.

We prototyped a number of ‘human thermometer tests’ across the building, where users were asked to visualise how they were feeling. This led to a more sophisticated online based prototype tested by 18 participants.

This test explored the emotive aspect of thermal comfort, where we used behavioural change theory to address ‘comfort’ rather than actual temperature.

The prototype sought to test the usability of online mechanisms to record user input, and to record any change in individuals’ comfort levels when they are shown the stated comfort levels of their colleagues.

One group of participants were asked to chart their level of thermal comfort at three times throughout the day. These readings were then given to the second group of participants before they stated their own levels of thermal comfort.

This was carried out with a small group of DECC staff and produced valuable insights. The online mechanisms were successful, and some users found the interaction both useful and informative; however, the scale of the prototype was not large enough to produce any statistical confirmation of this theory. Our academic partners in the Empower team at Brunel and Warwick universities have used the learnings from this prototype to inform more in-depth studies, in order to deliver a larger scale trial.

This prototype led to feedback that users felt listened to, and the feeling of a lack of control over the building temperature lessened. This was reciprocated with buy-in from users, who asked for opportunities to continue the prototype, and to run it again in colder months to get more detailed information.

Some users also fed-back that they were recording their temperatures using pen and paper even when they could not use the tool, further demonstrating that this was a real issue for staff at 3-8 Whitehall Place, and that they would undertake actions on this even when not prompted.

User Feedback After Using the Prototype — Thermopeople

“it was nice to think that someone cared how I was feeling”

“I enjoyed using the tool”

“I would keep using this tool”

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