Building Simulation: An International Journal

Article Title

The effects of portable cooling systems on thermal comfort and work performance in a hot environment


work performance, thermal comfort, cool air towards breathing zone, chest and back cooling, portable cooling systems


There are some special spaces in which there is no air conditioning or the people are in move, thus exposing people to a hot environment. In this study, portable cooling systems were proposed and their effects on thermal comfort and work performance were investigated at an air temperature of 32 °C. Four conditions were established: cool air towards breathing zone (A), chest and back cooling (B), combined cooling (C) and no cooling (D). Twenty-eight subjects were exposed to the four conditions in a counterbalanced order. During each exposure they performed tasks and made subjective assessments, while multiple physiological parameters were measured. Compared with no cooling (D), cool air towards breathing zone (A) and chest and back cooling (B) improved work performance by 17.5% and 19.25%, respectively, while decreased the subjects’ thermal sensation, skin temperature, and heart rate. When the two cooling systems were combined (C), larger improvements in thermal comfort and work performance were achieved than no cooling (D); the mean thermal sensation rating decreased from 2.4 to 0.7, work performance increased by up to 33%, and physiological parameters including skin temperature, pulse, heart rate and salivary alpha-amylase significantly decreased. The present results suggest that the proposed portable cooling systems could maintain thermal comfort and work performance in a hot environment, while potentially improve air quality for some special spaces.