© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Despite the fact that buildings are designed for occupants in principle, evidence suggests buildings are often uncomfortable compared to the requirements of standards; difficult to control by occupants; and, operated inefficiently with regards to occupants’ preferences and presence. Meanwhile, practitioners –architects, engineers, technology companies, building managers and operators, and policymakers – lack the knowledge, tools, and precedent to design and operate buildings optimally considering the complex and diverse nature of occupants. Building on the success of IEA EBC Annex 66 (“Definition and simulation of occupant behavior in buildings”; 2013–2017), a follow-up IEA EBC Annex 79 (“Occupant-centric building design and operation”; 2018–2023) has been developed to address gaps in knowledge, practice, and technology. Annex 79 involves international researchers from diverse disciplines like engineering, architecture, computer science, psychology, and sociology. Annex 79 and this review paper have four main areas of focus: (1) multi-domain environmental exposure, building interfaces, and human behavior; (2) data-driven occupant modeling strategies and digital tools; (3) occupant-centric building design; and (4) occupant-centric building operation. The objective of this paper is to succinctly report on the leading research of the above topics and articulate the most pressing research needs – planned to be addressed by Annex 79 and beyond.