This special issue of Buildings and Research International challenges the existing notions, standards and expectations for what constitutes 'comfort' within the built environment, explores the possibilities for alternative approaches and examines comfort as a socially-agreed and negotiable concept. This has significance for the move toward a lower carbon society; loosening the dependency on technological delivery, re-conceptualising what constitutes an acceptable zone of comfort and addressing how building design, operation and management can positively influence inhabitants' adaptation and behaviours. Contact Richard Lorch (r.lorch@ukonline.co.uk) for further information, or if interested in reviewing the issue.