Sometimes occupant health and comfort is overshadowed by the concern for saving energy. However, if addressed correctly, strategies to optimize occupant health and comfort could pay for itself by increasing occupant productivity. ASHRAE 55 provides guidance as to how to provide optimal occupant comfort. According to ASHRAE 55, the key components that factor into thermal comfort are air temperature, radiant temperature, humidity, air speed, metabolic rate, and clothing.
Building materials from wood blocking to paints may pose a threat to indoor air quality and human health due to the chemicals that they contain. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that can cause a number of symptoms in humans including eye, nose, and throat irritation. Some organics have even been known to cause cancer. VOCs can be found in a number of building materials including adhesives, sealants, and paints. Building rating systems such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge attempt to address the issue of the harmful effects of chemicals like VOCs by requiring projects to only use products that contain harmful chemicals in low concentrations or, in some cases, eliminating them altogether.