Introducing Comfort, Energy, and Behaviours: A review of comfort, health, and energy use: Understanding daily energy use and wellbeing for the development of a new approach to study comfort

  • Marco Antonio ORTIZ SANCHEZ TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment


There is a need for reducing dwellings’ energy consumption while maintaining a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. This review was performed to provide a steppingstone for identifying new methods for studying everyday home energy use and comfort. First, an overview of comfort is given as seen from different disciplines, depicting the subjective and multidimensional nature of comfort. This is followed by the biological component of comfort, reflected as an emotional, behavioural, and physiological reaction to environmental stimuli. Subsequently, links between comfort, health, and wellbeing are introduced. The second part of the review focuses on energy and buildings, with the connection between energy and behaviours-detailing possible explanations of performance gaps, and the pathways from energy to health. To conclude, human sensation of comfort is more complex than the perception of thermal, acoustical, visual stimuli, or air quality environment. Comfort is a reaction to the environment that is strongly influenced by cognitive and behavioural processes. Habits and controllability have been identified as paramount in the links between comfort and energy consumption. In this holistic view of comfort linked to health, comfort is referred to as ‘wellbeing’. he first steps for new directions of the study of comfort and energy are presented.


Anthony, K. (1998). Designing psychotherapists’ offices: Reflections of an environment-behavior researcher. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Convention, San Francisco.

Aune, M., Ryghaug, M., & Godbolt, Å. L. (2011). Comfort, consciousness and costs—transitions in Norwegian energy culture 1991–2010. In: Proceedings of the Energy Efficiency First: The foundation of a Low-Carbon Society.

Barbu, A.-D., Griffiths, N., & Morton, G. (2013). Achieving energy efficiency through behaviour change: what does it take? : Publications Office.

Barton, A., Basham, M., Foy, C., Buckingham, K., & Somerville, M. (2007). The Watcombe Housing Study: the short-term effect of improving housing conditions on the health of residents. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 61(9), 771-777.

Bechara, A. (2004). The role of emotion in decision-making: evidence from neurological patients with orbitofrontal damage. Brain and cognition, 55(1), 30-40.

Berkhout, P. H. G., Muskens, J. C., & W. Velthuijsen, J. (2000). Defining the rebound effect. Energy Policy, 28(6- 7), 425-432. doi: 10.1016/S0301-4215(00)00022-7

Bluyssen, P., De Oliveira Fernandes, E., Fanger, P., Groes, L., Glausen, G., Roulet, C., . . . Valbjorn, O. (1995a). European audit project to optimize indoor air quality and energy consumption in office buildings: No. LESO-PB-REPORT-2008-006.

Bluyssen, P., de Oliveira Fernandes, E., Fanger, P., Groes, L., Glausen, G., Roulet, C., . . . Valbjorn, O. (1995b). European audit project to optimize indoor air quality and energy consumption in office buildings.

Bluyssen, P. M. (2000). EPIQR and IEQ: indoor environment quality in European apartment buildings. Energy and Buildings, 31(2), 103-110.

Bluyssen, P. M. (2009). The Indoor Environment Handbook: How to Make Buildings Healthy and Comfortable: Earthscan.

Bluyssen, P. M. (2014). The Healthy Indoor Environment: How to Assess Occupants’ Wellbeing in Buildings: Routledge.

Bluyssen, P. M., Ortiz-Sanchez, M., & Roda, C. (2016). Self-reported rhinitis of students from different universities in the Netherlands and its association with their home environment. Building and Environment, 110, 36-45.

Bone, A., Murray, V., Myers, I., Dengel, A., & Crump, D. (2010). Will drivers for home energy efficiency harm occupant health? Perspectives in public health, 130(5), 233-238.

Bordass, B. (2004). Energy performance of non-domestic buildings: closing the credibility gap. Paper presented at the in Proceedings of the 2004 Improving Energy Efficiency of Commercial Buildings Conference.

Bornehag, C.-G., Sundell, J., Hagerhed‐Engman, L., Sigsggard, T., Janson, S., & Aberg, N. (2005). ‘Dampness’ at home and its association with airway, nose, and skin symptoms among 10,851 preschool children in Sweden: a cross‐sectional study. Indoor Air, 15(s10), 48-55.

Brager, G. S., & de Dear, R. (2001). Climate, comfort, & natural ventilation: a new adaptive comfort standard for ASHRAE standard 55.

Butz, A. M., Matsui, E. C., Breysse, P., Curtin-Brosnan, J., Eggleston, P., Diette, G., . . . Rand, C. (2011). A randomized trial of air cleaners and a health coach to improve indoor air quality for inner-city children with asthma and secondhand smoke exposure. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 165(8), 741-748.

Chatterton, T. (2011). An introduction to thinking about `energy behaviour’: A multi-model approach. (December).

Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2008). Positive psychological well-being and mortality: A quantitative review of prospective observational studies. Psychosomatic medicine, 70(7), 741-756.

Cohen, S., Evans, G. W., Stokols, D., & Krantz, D. S. (2013). Behavior, health, and environmental stress: Springer Science & Business Media.

Cox, H., Burns, I., & Savage, S. (2004). Multisensory environments for leisure: promoting well-being in nursing home residents with dementia. Journal of gerontological nursing, 30(2), 37-45.

Dahlbom, B. (2009). Changing Energy Behaviour: Guidelines for Behavioural Change Programmes: IDAE.

Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ error and the future of human life. Scientific American, 271(4), 144.

Demanuele, C., Tweddell, T., & Davies, M. (2010). Bridging the gap between predicted and actual energy performance in schools. Paper presented at the World renewable energy congress XI.

Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(1), 1-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.x

Dietz, T. (2015). Altruism, self-interest, and energy consumption. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(6), 1654-1655.

Dietz, T., Stern, P. C., & Weber, E. U. (2013). Reducing carbon-based energy consumption through changes in household behavior. Daedalus, 142(1), 78-89.

Dunn, R. R. (2011). The wild life of our bodies: predators, parasites, and partners that shape who we are today: Harper.

Ehrhardt-Martinez, K. (2011). Changing habits, lifestyles and choices: The behaviours that drive feedback-induced energy savings. Proceedings of the 2011 ECEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Toulon, France, 2011, 6-11.

Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10), 1397-1413.

Fisk, W. J. (2000). Health and productivity gains from better indoor environments and their relationship with building energy efficiency. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 25(1), 537-566.

Fisk, W. J. (2013). Health benefits of particle filtration. Indoor Air, 23(5), 357-368.

Fisk, W. J. (2015). Review of some effects of climate change on indoor environmental quality and health and associated no-regrets mitigation measures. Building and Environment, 86, 70-80.

Fisk, W. J., Lei‐Gomez, Q., & Mendell, M. J. (2007). Meta‐analyses of the associations of respiratory health effects with dampness and mould in homes. Indoor Air, 17(4), 284-296.

Frumkin, H. (2005). Environmental health: from global to local (Vol. 11): John Wiley & Sons.

Fuchs, M., Hegger, M., Stark, T., & Zeumer, M. (2008). Energy manual: sustainable architecture: Walter de Gruyter.

Geels, F. W. (2005). The dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems: a multi-level analysis of the transition pathway from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles (1860–1930). Technology analysis & strategic management, 17(4), 445-476.

Grin, J., Rotmans, J., & Schot, J. (2010). Transitions to sustainable development: new directions in the study of long term transformative change: Routledge.

Heijs, W., & Stringer, P. (1987). Comfort as a property of the dwelling: a conceptual analysis. The Netherlands journal of housing and environmental research, 2(4), 331-356.

Helander, M. G. (2003). Forget about ergonomics in chair design? Focus on aesthetics and comfort! Ergonomics, 46(13-14), 1306-1319.

Howden-Chapman, P., Matheson, A., Crane, J., Viggers, H., Cunningham, M., Blakely, T., . . . O’Dea, D. (2007). Effect of insulating existing houses on health inequality: cluster randomised study in the community. Bmj, 334(7591), 460.

Huebner, G. M., Cooper, J., & Jones, K. (2013). Domestic energy consumption—What role do comfort, habit, and knowledge about the heating system play? Energy and Buildings, 66, 626-636.

Huijts, N., Molin, E., & Steg, L. (2012). Psychological factors influencing sustainable energy technology acceptance: A review-based comprehensive framework. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(1), 525-531.

IEA. (2013). EBC Annex 53 Total Energy Use in Buildings: Analysis & Evaluation Methods: International Energy Agency.

Jager, W. (2003). Breaking bad habits: a dynamical perspective on habit formation and change. Human Decision- Making and Environmental Perception–Understanding and Assisting Human Decision-Making in Real Life Settings. Libor Amicorum for Charles Vlek, Groningen: University of Groningen.

Ji, M. F., & Wood, W. (2007). Purchase and consumption habits: Not necessarily what you intend. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 17(4), 261-276.

Johnson, F., Mavrogianni, A., Ucci, M., Vidal‐Puig, A., & Wardle, J. (2011). Could increased time spent in a thermal comfort zone contribute to population increases in obesity? Obesity reviews, 12(7), 543-551.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of environmental psychology, 15(3), 169-182.

Kellert, S. R. (2012). Building for life: Designing and understanding the human-nature connection: Island press.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., McGuire, L., Robles, T. F., & Glaser, R. (2002). Psychoneuroimmunology: psychological influences on immune function and health. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 70(3), 537.

Kolcaba, K. Y. (1991). A taxonomic structure for the concept comfort. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 23(4), 237-240.

Kolcaba, K. Y. (1994). A theory of holistic comfort for nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 19(6), 1178-1184.

Lanphear, B. P., Hornung, R. W., Khoury, J., Yolton, K., Lierl, M., & Kalkbrenner, A. (2011). Effects of HEPA air cleaners on unscheduled asthma visits and asthma symptoms for children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. Pediatrics, 127(1), 93-101.

Leather, P., Pyrgas, M., Beale, D., & Lawrence, C. (1998). Windows in the workplace sunlight, view, and occupational stress. Environment and Behavior, 30(6), 739-762.

Leech, J., Raizenne, M., & Gusdorf, J. (2004). Health in occupants of energy efficient new homes. Indoor Air, 14(3), 169-173.

Leotti, L. A., Iyengar, S. S., & Ochsner, K. N. (2010). Born to choose: The origins and value of the need for control. Trends Cognitive Science, 14(10), 457-463.

Li, J., De Ridder, H., Vermeeren, A., Conrado, C., & Martella, C. (2013). Design for crown well-being: Needs and Design suggestions. Paper presented at the International Conference on Planning and Design, Taiwan.

Liddell, C., & Morris, C. (2010). Fuel poverty and human health: a review of recent evidence. Energy Policy, 38(6), 2987-2997.

Looze, M. D., Kuijt-Evers, L. F. M., & Dieën, J. V. (2003). Sitting comfort and discomfort and the relationships with objective measures. Ergonomics.

Maidment, C. D., Jones, C. R., Webb, T. L., Hathway, E. A., & Gilbertson, J. M. (2014). The impact of household energy efficiency measures on health: A meta-analysis. Energy Policy, 65, 583-593.

Majcen, D., Itard, L. C. M., & Visscher, H. (2013). Theoretical vs. actual energy consumption of labelled dwellings in the Netherlands: Discrepancies and policy implications. Energy policy, 54, 125-136

Majcen, D. (2016). Predicting energy consumption and savings in the housing stock: A performance gap analysis in the Netherlands. (PhD Thesis), Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands.

Marberry, S. O. (1995). Innovations in healthcare design: selected presentations from the first five symposia on healthcare design: John Wiley & Sons.

Maréchal, K. (2009). An evolutionary perspective on the economics of energy consumption: the crucial role of habits. Journal of Economic Issues, 43(1), 69-88.

Maréchal, K. (2010). Not irrational but habitual: The importance of “behavioural lock-in” in energy consumption. Ecological Economics, 69(5), 1104-1114.

Martiskaïnen, M. (2008). Household Energy consumption and behavioural change–the UK perspective. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the SCORE 2008 Conference “Sustainable Consumption and Production: Framework for action.

McKenzie-Mohr, D. (2000). Fostering sustainable behavior through community-based social marketing. American psychologist, 55(5), 531.

Mendell, M. J., Macher, J. M., & Kumagai, K. (2014). Indoor Dampness and Mold as Indicators of Respiratory Health Risks, Part 3: A Synthesis of Published Data on Indoor Measured Moisture and Respiratory Health. Proceedings of Indoor Air.

Mendell, M. J., Mirer, A. G., Cheung, K., & Douwes, J. (2011). Respiratory and allergic health effects of dampness, mould, and dampness-related agents: a review of the epidemiologic evidence. Environmental health perspectives, 119(6), 748.

Midden, C. J. (2006). Sustainable technology or sustainable users? User Behavior and Technology Development (pp. 191-200): Springer.

Milieucentraal. (2016). Gemiddeld energieverbruik. Retrieved from

Moezzi, M., & Lutzenhiser, L. (2010). What’s missing in theories of the residential energy user. ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Washington, DC.

Nagasawa, N., Yamaguchi, R., Kato, R., & Shin-ichi, T. (2015). Longitudinal study of housing for the promotion of health and well-being. Journal of Environmental Engineering (Japan), 80(709), 279-287.

Nicol, F., Humphreys, M., & Roaf, S. (2012). Adaptive thermal comfort: principles and practice: Routledge.

Norbäck, D., Lampa, E., & Engvall, K. (2014). Asthma, Allergy and Eczema among Adults in Multifamily Houses in Stockholm (3-HE Study)-Associations with Building Characteristics, Home Environment and Energy Use for Heating. PloS one, 9(12), e112960.

Norman, D. A., Ortony, A., & Russell, D. M. (2002). Affect and Machine Design: Lessons for the Development of Autonomus Machines - Affect Matters A Model of Affect and Cognition : Behavior Three Levels of Processing. 1-10.

Ong, B. L. (2013). Beyond environmental comfort: Routledge.

Oreszczyn, T., Hong, S. H., Ridley, I., Wilkinson, P., & Group, W. F. S. (2006). Determinants of winter indoor temperatures in low income households in England. Energy and Buildings, 38(3), 245-252.

Ortony, A., Norman, D., & Revelle, W. (2012). Affect and Proto-Affect in Effective Functioning. In J. M. Fellous & M. A. Arbib (Eds.), Who needs emotions? The brain meets the Robot (pp. 173-202): Oxford University Press.

Parsons, R., Tassinary, L. G., Ulrich, R. S., Hebl, M. R., & Grossman-Alexander, M. (1998). The view from the road: implications for stress recovery and immunization. Journal of environmental psychology, 18(2), 113- 140.

Pierce, J., Schiano, D. J., & Paulos, E. (2010). Home, habits, and energy: examining domestic interactions and energy consumption. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Rashid, M., & Zimring, C. (2008). A review of the empirical literature on the relationships between indoor environment and stress in health care and office settings problems and prospects of sharing evidence. Environment and Behavior, 40(2), 151-190.

Roulet, C.-A., Bluyssen, P. M., Cox, C., & Foradini, F. (2006). Relations between perceived indoor environment characteristics and well being of occupants at individual level. Paper presented at the Healthy Buildings 2006.

Roulet, C.-A., Flourentzou, F., Foradini, F., Bluyssen, P., Cox, C., & Aizlewood, C. (2006). Multicriteria analysis of health, comfort and energy efficiency in buildings. Building research and information, 34(5), 475-482.

Roulet, C.-A., Johner, N., Foradini, F., Bluyssen, P., Cox, C., De Oliveira Fernandes, E., . . . Aizlewood, C. (2006). Perceived health and comfort in relation to energy use and building characteristics. Building research and information, 34(5), 467-474.

Russell, R., Guerry, A. D., Balvanera, P., Gould, R. K., Basurto, X., Chan, K. M., . . . Tam, J. (2013). Humans and nature: how knowing and experiencing nature affect well-being. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 38, 473-502.

Sandel, M., & Wright, R. J. (2006). When home is where the stress is: expanding the dimensions of housing that influence asthma morbidity. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91(11), 942-948.

Sapolsky, R. M. (2005). The influence of social hierarchy on primate health. Science, 308(5722), 648-652.

Segerstrom, S. C., & Sephton, S. E. (2010). Optimistic expectancies and cell-mediated immunity the role of positive affect. Psychological science, 21(3), 448-455.

Sharpe, R. A., Thornton, C. R., Nikolaou, V., & Osborne, N. J. (2015). Higher energy efficient homes are associated with increased risk of doctor diagnosed asthma in a UK subpopulation. Environment international, 75, 234- 244.

Shove, E. (2004). Efficiency and consumption: technology and practice. Energy & Environment, 15(6), 1053-1065.

Slater, K. (1985). Human comfort (Vol. 1): Springfield, Ill., USA: CC Thomas.

Steptoe, A., Wardle, J., & Marmot, M. (2005). Positive affect and health-related neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and inflammatory processes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(18), 6508-6512.

Stokols, D., Grzywacz, J. G., McMahan, S., & Phillips, K. (2003). Increasing the health promotive capacity of human environments. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(1), 4-13.

Sun, Y., & Sundell, J. (2013). On associations between housing characteristics, dampness and asthma and allergies among children in Northeast Texas. Indoor and Built Environment, 22(4), 678-684.

Thomson, H., Petticrew, M., & Morrison, D. (2001). Health effects of housing improvement: systematic review of intervention studies. Bmj, 323(7306), 187-190.

Thomson, H., Thomas, S., Sellstrom, E., & Petticrew, M. (2009). The health impacts of housing improvement: a systematic review of intervention studies from 1887 to 2007. American Journal of Public Health, 99(S3), S681-S692.

Thomson, H., Thomas, S., Sellstrom, E., & Petticrew, M. (2013). Housing improvements for health and associated socio‐economic outcomes. The Cochrane Library.

Torriti, J. (2017). Understanding the timing of energy demand through time use data: Time of the day dependence of social practices. Energy Research & Social Science, 25, 37-47.

van der Lans, A. A., Hoeks, J., Brans, B., Vijgen, G. H., Visser, M. G., Vosselman, M. J., . . . Mottaghy, F. M. (2013). Cold acclimation recruits human brown fat and increases nonshivering thermogenesis. The Journal of clinical investigation, 123(8), 3395-3403.

van Marken Lichtenbelt, W. D., Vanhommerig, J. W., Smulders, N. M., Drossaerts, J. M., Kemerink, G. J., Bouvy, N. D., . . . Teule, G. J. (2009). Cold-activated brown adipose tissue in healthy men. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(15), 1500-1508.

van Raaij, W. F., & Verhallen, T. M. M. (1983). Patterns of residential energy behavior. Journal of economic psychology, 4(1-2), 85-106. doi: 10.1016/0167-4870(83)90047-8

Verbeek, P.-P., & Slob, A. (2006). User behavior and technology development: Springer.

Verplanken, B., & Aarts, H. (1999). Habit, attitude, and planned behaviour: is habit an empty construct or an interesting case of goal-directed automaticity? European review of social psychology, 10(1), 101-134.

Verplanken, B., & Wood, W. (2006). Interventions to break and create consumer habits. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 25(1), 90-103.

Vink, P. (2004). Comfort and design: principles and good practice: CRC press.

Waite-Chuah, S. (2012). Living in the Comfort Zone: At What Cost? Sustainability: The Journal of Record, 5(6), 386-390.

Wilhite, H. (2008). New thinking on the agentive relationship between end-use technologies and energy-using practices. Energy efficiency, 1(2), 121-130.

Wilkinson, P., Smith, K. R., Beevers, S., Tonne, C., & Oreszczyn, T. (2007). Energy, energy efficiency, and the built environment. The Lancet, 370(9593), 1175-1187.

Willand, N., Ridley, I., & Maller, C. (2015). Towards explaining the health impacts of residential energy efficiency interventions–A realist review. Part 1: Pathways. Social science & medicine, 133, 191-201.

Williams, S. M. (1994). Environment and mental health: John Wiley & Son Limited.

Wilson, J., Dixon, S. L., Jacobs, D. E., Breysse, J., Akoto, J., Tohn, E., . . . Hernandez, Y. (2014). Watts-to- Wellbeing: does residential energy conservation improve health? Energy efficiency, 7(1), 151-160.

Wood, W., & Rünger, D. (2016). Psychology of habit. Annual Review of psychology, 67, 289-314.

Yao, R., & Steemers, K. (2005). A method of formulating energy load profile for domestic buildings in the UK. Energy and Buildings, 37(6), 663-671.

Zachariae, R. (2009). Psychoneuroimmunology: A bio-psycho-social approach to health and disease. Scand J Psychol, 50(6), 645-651. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2009.00779.x
How to Cite
SANCHEZ, Marco Antonio ORTIZ. Introducing Comfort, Energy, and Behaviours. A+BE | Architecture and the Built Environment, [S.l.], n. 5, p. 50-77, nov. 2019. ISSN 2214-7233. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 05 dec. 2019. doi: