There is reason to reexamine the basis of existing standards of comfort. Most of the existing research on human response to temperature in buildings has been conducted in environmentally controlled rooms in ways that do not allow for adaptive responses by occupants (e.g., Stolwijk, 1978). Clothing levels, for example, are usually held constant. This research strategy implicitly defines comfort as a physiologically determined function of temperature, clothing levels, rate of air movement, and a few other physical variables. There is evidence, however, that comfort is a preference that people are constantly choosing, rather than a physiological function. One line of evidence is the variability of up to 13 degrees Fahrenheit among average air temperatures in homes in different Western nations (Schipper and Ketoff, 1982). Another is the experimental research that demonstrates that households given a schedule of slow adaptation to lower temperatures in their homes are as comfortable at 62 degrees Fahrenheit after adaptation as at 65 degrees Fahrenheit before (Winett, Hatcher, Fort, Leckliter, Love, Riley, and Fishback, 1982).
As long as standard-setting organizations continue to define comfort as they have, however, the purchasers of buildings are limited in their choices and somewhat constrained in their energy use. They may be purchasing more lighting and larger heating and cooling plants than they need and so using more energy. When standards become incorporated in building codes, building owners and occupants are especially constrained. Thus, there is potential for modifying energy use through changing decisions in standard-setting organizations.
It is unrealistic to attempt to offer general policy recommendations for dealing with intermediaries because there is too much variability among sectors of the energy market. As a first step, the importance of intermediaries as possible agents for change should be emphasized. It is worthwhile to compare the impact on energy use that could be achieved through change by the intermediaries involved in a given area of energy consumption with the magnitude of change within the discretion of ultimate energy users.
Policies aimed at actors other than energy users are sometimes highly attractive in terms of potential effectiveness. For example, the potential for energy savings in transportation was much higher from regulating the manufacture of automobiles than from financing mass transit or providing incentives for ride-sharing by travelers (Hirst, 1976). In that particular case, hindsight shows that regulating the manufacturer was politically feasible. The situation has been different in the building industry: the great technical potential for energy savings through more energy-efficient build-