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Thermal Comfort and Spatial Variability: A Study of Traditional Courtyard Houses in the Hot Dry Climate of Khartoum, Sudan



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Merghani, Abubakr 


This study investigates thermal comfort conditions in traditional courtyard houses in Khartoum, Sudan. The aim is to compare these conditions to the predictions and recommendations of international standards to assess the existence of any discrepancy between the two. It also studies occupants' space-use patterns and the effect of utilising spatial variability offered by traditional houses on occupants' thermal satisfaction level.

The study follows established methodologies in thermal comfort fieldwork research. The fieldwork, conducted in Khartoum, lasted for six-month (January to June 2000) covering winter, spring and summer months and collecting data from eleven subjects in four houses. Eleven experiments were conducted each lasting between 5-14 days producing 1772 data sets.

Comparison of the findings of the thermal comfort survey with international standards highlighted a significant discrepancy, which has direct implications on energy consumption in air-conditioned buildings.

Examining occupants' space-use patterns revealed that people were going about their daily life inside traditional houses in a manner that ensured low levels of thermal discomfort. However, a range of social, functional and cultural factors took precedence over thermal comfort in certain situations/times.

An observational study showed that occupants of traditional courtyard houses adopted a wide range of adaptive behavioural responses in their quest for comfort in hot conditions (e.g. traditional costumes, use of evaporative cooling, drinking cold/hot drinks, change of activity level and posture, etc.).

The study concluded that applying passive design principles in Sudan will not only ensure good levels of thermal comfort in naturally-ventilated buildings, but will also reduce energy consumption.




Steemers, Koen


Thermal comfort, Courtyard houses, Naturally-ventilated buildings, Khartoum, Sudan


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge