Courtesy IBACOS

“Comfort” has emerged as a buzzword to help builders better articulate the benefits of high-performance housing to prospective home buyers who get a little glossy-eyed when they hear terms like “flash-and-batt” or “cool roof system.”

But just what is comfort, and how do builders deliver something that is inherently subjective to each person? Researchers at IBACOS are focused on finding the answer … or at least refining it a little better for builders through a series of experiments they’re conducting in the Best Practices Research Alliance’s Energy Efficiency Lab Home near Pittsburgh.

Leveraging standards developed by ASHRAE, the 2,772-square-foot Lab Home features thermal stands in each room that measure temperature from 4, 24, 43, and 67 inches from the finished floor, as well as relative humidity and radiant temperature from solar heat gain.

The goal is to find the sweet spot—ASHRAE’s so-called “Comfort Zone” that satisfies the vast majority of people—by testing different combinations of thermal comfort systems and normal occupant behavior simulations. “The ultimate goal is to create design guidelines that can be applied across the country and all housing types,” says IBACOS building performance specialist Dave Stecher.

To learn more about the Energy Efficiency Lab Home, go to