Groupe de recherche

Ambiances physiques (GRAP)

Environmental Adaptability in Architecture: Towards a dynamic multi-sensory approach integrating user’s behavior.




SSHRC / CRSH Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada (CRSH) 2003-2007

Post-occupational study of an office building / POE / Étude post-occupationnelle d’un édifice à bureaux

André Potvin, Claude Demers, Marie-Claude Dubois, avec la collaboration de Fariborz Haghighat (Center for building science, University of Concordia), Guy Newsham (National Research Council of Canada), André l’Heureux et l’équipe du GRAP.

Engineering has provided architects and building practitioners with Electronic Control Systems (ECS) with the ability to control building environments. These systems also provide a route to energy savings with consequently great benefits to society. However, the engineering sciences have been unsuccessful in defining how such systems should be operated to improve the environmental experience for building occupants. Such definition demands the input of the social sciences, to elucidate the environmental experience and behaviour of building occupants. Proven linkages between environmental satisfaction, job satisfaction and longer-term well-being only reinforce the urgency of this effort. The construction of the new bioclimatic CDP building in Montreal, with its sophisticated control system to operate lighting, blinds, and temperatures in individual offices offers a unique platform for this research.

Recent review of field evidence show the distinction between environmental comfort responses in air-conditioned buildings versus « bioclimatic » (naturally lit and ventilated) buildings. Occupants of the later had more relaxed expectations and were more tolerant to environmental variations due to their past stimuli and perceived control over their environment. Brager and DeDear (1998), who conducted several studies into the thermal adaptive theory to explain this discrepancy, concluded that this approach acknowledges that thermal perception in the « real world » settings is influenced by the complexities of past thermal history, non-thermal factors, behavioral adjustments and thermal expectations, all four clearly related to movement in architecture and architectural means of controlling the environment. Since a building and its site form an important part of the « circumstances » of the occupants, architecture has the potential to either encourage or restrict adaptive behavior. This research proposes to determine by field study experiments the relativity of environmental comfort through a multi-sensory approach integrating user’s behavior in terms of environmental adjustments and movement through spaces of different environmental conditions.



1. to develop and adapt the methodology for assessing environmental adaptability developed previously by Potvin (2002);
2. to demonstrate the importance of a multi-sensory approach to environmental comfort by extensive field studies;
3. to evaluate the role of behavioral adjustments and movement from one space to another on environmental comfort;
4. to integrate the notion of environmental adaptability into POEs (post-occupancy evaluation) tools; and
5. to transfer findings to building professionals and other related practitioners.





Contribution to the Advancement of Knowledge

Most recent studies on comfort come to the conclusion that we now have to develop means to assess the processes of behavioral adjustment and expectation in order to improve the applicability of the thermal adaptation theory (DeDear, 1998). The PAMPA-3, portable array for the measurement of physical ambiences, issued from a recent SSHRC will be bonified by this research and may become a standard tool for POE (post-occupation evaluation) of new buildings and the retrofit studies of existing buildings. Other benefits from improved understanding of the influence of environmental adaptation include improved predictive models and standards, more sophisticated and responsive environmental controls, enhanced levels of comfort and acceptability among occupants, reduced energy consumption and the encouragement among professionals of climatically and environmentally responsive architecture. The scope of the proposed research is therefore large since it is directly related to the occupants health and well being and the notion of sustainable development in architecture by reducing energy and resources consumption.





Longitudinal studies

Quantitative surveys: APMAP


Programmes d'études

La Faculté

© 2019 Groupe de recherche en ambiances physiques (GRAP) - Tous droits réservés
Responsable : Claude Demers |

Youtube Facebook