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Health and thermal comfort: From WHO guidance to housing strategies


There are many references to the WHO guidance on thermal comfort in housing, but not to the original source material. Based on archive material, this paper gives the evidential basis for the WHO guidance. It then reports on evidence that some groups may be more susceptible to high or low indoor temperatures than others. It examines different methods for measuring thermal comfort, such as air temperature measurement, assessing residents' perception, and predicting satisfaction. Resident's perception was used effectively in the WHO LARES project, showing that self-reported poor health was significantly associated with poor thermal comfort. Tools to inform strategies directed at dealing with cold homes and fuel poverty are considered, including Energy Performance Certificates, Fuel Poverty Indicators, and the English Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Conclusions from a WHO Workshop on Housing, Energy and Thermal Comfort are also summarised. The WHO view of thermal comfort, which is driven by protecting health from both high and low indoor temperatures, should be recognised in energy efficiency, fuel poverty and climate change strategies. While this is a major challenge, it could provide both health gains for individuals, and economic benefits for society.