WELL Concept #6: Comfort

WELL Concept #6: Comfort

Are your occupants in their comfort zone?

The state of being comfortable is crucial to mood, performance and productivity. In today’s environment, there are myriad challenges to keeping building occupants comfortable, including external and internal noise and odors, heating and cooling demands, the stress of repetitive tasks and even physical barriers. The uber-popular, open floor plan workspace, which offers much in the way of collaboration and cooperation, creates a whole new set of challenges to occupant comfort when it comes to sound, privacy and thermal issues.

While the Comfort construct is highly individual, the WELL Building Standard® seeks to provide parameters for promoting indoor comfort on two fronts: 1) reducing sources of physiological disruption, distraction and irritation; and 2) enhancing ergonomic, acoustic, olfactory and thermal conditions.

WELL’s five prerequisites for Comfort are:

  • Accessible design that is ADA compliant or meets ISO Building Construction standards for accessibility and usability
  • Visual and physical ergonomics that reduce physical strain from repetitive muscle use, including adjustable computer screens and adjustable height sit-stand desks
  • Reduction of exterior city or road noise, with average sound pressure level not to exceed 50 dBA
  • Reduction of internally generated noise and increased speech privacy, including:
    • an acoustical plan that identifies spaces and potential sources of disruption
    • maximum noise criteria (NC) levels generated by mechanical systems—NC-40 for open spaces, NC-35 for enclosed offices and NC-30 for conference rooms
  • Thermal comfort, ensuring that all mechanically ventilated spaces meet the design, operating and performance criteria for air temperature and humidity specified in ASHRAE’s Standard Comfort Zone Compliance


WELL goes further with optimization features pertaining to olfactory, sound and thermal conditions.

The olfactory comfort optimization requires that all restrooms, janitorial closets, kitchens, cafeterias and pantries have provisions such as physical barriers or negative pressurizaton to prevent odors from exfiltrating to surrounding areas.

Sound optimizations include the incorporation of a sound masking system in open workspaces that provides background noise to enhance privacy and reduce distraction; sound reducing surfaces; and sound barriers between adjacent spaces.

Thermal comfort optimizations include features that allow for individual control of environmental conditions, such as the provision of personal thermal devices and a “free address” option, in which a range of temperatures within a gradiant of three degrees is available and occupants are free to choose their workspace. Another optimization is the incorporation of radiant heating and cooling systems into the building design, which maximizes floor space, reduces dust transmission, and increases thermal comfort through the separation of temperature controls and outdoor air supply systems.


If you’d like to take a deeper dive into WELL for Comfort and how you can incorporate its features in your upcoming projects, please email me directly.
To view past installments in our WELL series, please view the media section of our website.
Wishing you WELL,
Bruce Lilker, PE, LEED® AP,  WELL AP

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