If I had a pound for every compliant I had heard about office air conditioning I would be a very rich man. Office air temperature seems to be the bane of most employees. It was no surprise then to read a recent report claiming that poor air quality in an office has been attributed to an average productivity loss of 10%.
The majority of equipment regulating the average office environment – heaters, air-conditioners and ventilators – have override options that allow workers to personalise workplaces to suit individuals’ comfort levels. However these personalised controls have been heavily criticised by environmentalists who argue that lots of systems personalised to lots of comfort levels take up a lot of energy. It is much more efficient to centralise the management of a building’s energy consumption. Although this is not what frozen colleagues want to hear!
New office space is often very responsive to people’s needs and designed to be energy efficient. However many business occupy ageing buildings that were often not built to serve as offices but for manufacturing and production purposes, such as mills and factories.
Thankfully we are now witnessing the arrival of smart technologies, such as learning thermostats, which are more responsive to comfort levels because they automatically adjust to a worker’s comfort needs and environment. These smart technologies are often wireless devices that can talk to one another and don’t require human data entry to operate.
Experiments to test these smarter energy solutions are currently underway in California. These experiments test the new gadgets in purposely designed buildings to allow builders and architects to determine how well their designs will fare in a simulated setting. Given the huge amounts of resource we lose on energy inefficient buildings – whether heating bills or lost productivity as colleagues huddle together out of the way of a temperamental air conditioning machine – these new initiatives should go a long way to helping improve the workplace and employee engagement.