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Thermal Comfort

In relation to global climate change and an increasing number of heat waves or cold spells, the implication of climate and indoor temperature on health is gaining increased attention,. Please see also the information provided on the page climate change. Habitations provide shelter from extreme weather events: excessive heat and intense solar radiation in summer, and severe cold in winter.
The technical term "thermal comfort" means satisfaction with room temperature, humidity and indoor air circulation, and an adequate balance between the perception of warm and cold, dry and damp indoor air. This subjective well-being in a dwelling is also determined by our residential activities and the type of clothing.
In most European countries, dwellings have to be heated to offer adequate indoor temperatures during winter time. Thus, thermal insulation and effective heating systems are essential parts of the basic housing standard. Studies in the United Kingdom show that winter excess deaths from inadequate room temperatures occur primarily in the elderly and particularly low-income population (Reference: Excess Winter Morbidity Among older People).
The cost for fuel to provide thermal comfort in the dwelling has to be affordable for the disadvantaged population groups, too. In terms of financial aspects and sustainability, energy efficiency is a key component in housing strategies for the future. However, thermal insulation usually causes an increasing tightness of buildings and reduces air exchange. As a result, the indoor air quality may be affected. Therefore, adequate ventilating strategies aim at ensuring adequate air exchange rate and minimizing the loss of warmth and energy.
Prolonged periods with high temperatures in summer can lead to serious health hazards, up to death mainly in the elderly population. It is estimated that the heat wave in 2003 was responsible for 20.000 additional deaths in Europe. Therefore, sufficient protection from excessive heat and adequate options to yield shade should be considered before buildings are designed and constructed. In addition, people should apply short-term measures during extended heat waves, such as drinking sufficient amounts of liquids.