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Last edited 02 Oct 2020
Human comfort in buildings
One of the most important considerations when designing a building is the extent to which it provides an environment that is comfortable for its occupants. Comfort in the built environment is affected by a great number of different factors which can, if not addressed properly, can lead to poor levels of comfort, discomfort, or can even cause harm and ill health to occupants.
 Personal factors
- Level of health.
- Clothing worn.
- Type of activity and level of intensity.
- Access to food and drink.
- Psychological state.
For example, older people tend to feel the cold more than younger people.
Comfort is closely related to wellbeing, which was defined by Dodge et al (2012) as ‘…when individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet a particular psychological, social and/or physical challenge’. Wellbeing incorporates other factors such as employment and relationship status, rather than just physical comfort within an environment.
Thermal comfort is defined in BS EN ISO 7730 as '…that condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment.', i.e. the condition when someone is not feeling either too hot or too cold.
When people are dissatisfied with their thermal environment, not only is it a potential health hazard, it also impacts on their ability to function effectively, their satisfaction at work, the likelihood they will remain a customer, and so on. Therefore, it is imperative that building design ensure the means of achieving good indoor climate.
Human comfort can also be affected by the quality of ventilation in a building. Ventilation is necessary in buildings to remove 'stale' air and replace it with 'fresh' air, as well as to prevent overheating. For more information, see Ventilation.
We all breathe air to live and if it is polluted or carries airborne diseases we can fall ill as a result. Airborne hazards such as carbon monoxide or longer-term indoor threats like radon release are sometimes a problem but the toxic fine combustion particles mainly from traffic emissions and some power stations are the major health risk to the public at large.
For more information see:
- BREEAM Visual comfort Glare control.
- BREEAM Visual comfort Daylighting.
- BREEAM Visual comfort View out.
Comfort can also be negatively influenced by the amount and type of noise in a building. Noise nuisance is excessive noise or disturbance that may have a negative effect on health or the quality of life, e.g. being able to hear the occupants of a neighbouring house through the walls.
Ergonomics is particularly related to the design of workplaces, products and systems to best fit those who use them. The aim of effective ergonomics is to apply learning about human abilities and limitations to improve interaction with environment and products, and prevent or limit the risk of illness or injury.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Assessing health and wellbeing in buildings.
- Building for wellbeing.
- Building related illness.
- Environmental health.
- Ergonomics in construction.
- Fresh air.
- Heat stress.
- Home Quality Mark high temperature reporting tool.
- Indoor air quality.
- Sick building syndrome.
- Temperature in buildings.
- Thermal comfort and wellbeing.
- UV disinfection of building air to remove harmful bacteria and viruses
- What we know about wellbeing.
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