How Does Low Relative Humidity Affect Perceived Air Quality, Thermal Comfort and Symptoms in Modern Office Buildings in Cold Climates?

  • Merethe Lind
  • Sverre HoløsEmail author
  • Kari Thunshelle
  • Aileen Yang
  • Mads Mysen
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Proceedings in Energy book series (SPE)


To assess how people are influenced by relative humidity (RH) in cold climates, a study was conducted in an open office landscape in Oslo, Norway. The study took place during three cold days in February 2017. Fourteen subjects were blindly exposed to different levels of RH in the order of low (14 ± 1%), high (38 ± 3%), and medium (24 ± 4%). The subjects received emails twice a day (at 12:00 and at 14:30) with a link to a webpage where they were asked to: (1) assess perceived air quality (PAQ), (2) respond to a questionnaire about indoor environment quality and symptoms. The subjects performed normal office activity in between the two sessions. We found no significant impact of the level of RH on PAQ. Nevertheless, there were significantly more complaints about dry air at low RH than at medium and high RH. Furthermore, the air was perceived to be significantly more stuffy and heavier at high RH than at medium RH. There were no significant differences in thermal comfort at different RH, yet more people complained that it was cold on the day with low RH and warm on the day with high RH. Generally, there were few complaints related to symptoms at different RH. There were however significantly more complaints of itching and burning in the eyes at low RH than at medium and high RH.


Relative humidity Perceived air quality Thermal comfort Dry air Symptoms 



We would like to thank the participants from GK A/S for their assistance and participation in this project. This paper is based on the master thesis by Merethe Lind, and was a part of the BEST VENT project. BEST VENT is funded by the Research Council of Norway EnergiX program under Grant 255375/E20 together with the industry partners: Undervisningsbygg Oslo KF, GK Inneklima AS, DNB Næringseiendom AS, Erichsen & Horgen AS, Hjellnes Consult AS, Multiconsult AS, Interfil AS, Camfil Norge AS, Swegon AS, Belimo Automasjon Norge AS, NEAS AS, and Norsk VVS Energi- og Miljøteknisk Forenings Stiftelse for forskning.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Formal consent was given by the volunteers who participated in this study. We did not collect any identifiable or sensitive information that would require ethical approval. The research has been conducted in compliance with the ethical standards at OsloMet—Oslo Metropolitan University (formerly Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Science) and Norwegian Law.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OsloMet—Oslo Metropolitan University (Formerly Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)OsloNorway
  2. 2.SINTEF Building and InfrastructureOsloNorway

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