By Onset Computer
Employee productivity is affected by indoor environmental conditions at the workplace, and temperature is often a major factor. In fact, according to a 2009 survey by the International Facility Management Association, the most common comfort complaints expressed by office workers pertain to temperature. It seems that in any work environment – whether an industrial plant, office park, or hospital – at one point or another some employees will report being too hot and/or some will report being too cold.
Potential dollars lost in productivity due to employee discomfort can be substantial. With salaries typically making up more than 90% of the total operating cost of a commercial building, even tiny increases in employee productivity can mean a lot to the organization’s bottom line. A 2004 study by the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory revealed that raising office temperature to a more comfortable range can save employers approximately two dollars per worker per hour, which translates to $200,000 yearly for a company of 50 employees.
Today, many building managers and owners are looking to increase energy efficiency, often making changes to their facility that can lead to comfort complaints. Actions such as installing sun screens, moving thermostats, altering day and night set points, and overall building recommissioning can affect occupant comfort, and therefore complaints may increase after these changes are implemented.
Although it can be challenging for any facility manager to juggle the various factors to consider when evaluating worker comfort – including the season, the clothing worn by individuals, whether workers are sedentary at their desks or moving about the room, and simple variation in temperature preferences – ASHRAE Standard 55 can serve as a guide. Standard 55, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy, addresses the range of indoor thermal environmental conditions acceptable to a majority of occupants. It also describes and quantifies how air temperature, relative humidity, air flow, and occupant activity and clothing together create an indoor thermal environment.
Before determining the possible root cause of a comfort complaint (e.g., lack of proper zoning, poor workspace design, solar gain) and taking corrective action, facilities managers first must establish whether the subject area is in fact too hot or too cold.
To validate temperature-related comfort complaints, an increasing number of facilities managers and HVAC contractors rely on battery-powered data loggers. Data loggers are low-cost compact devices that incorporate high accuracy sensing, recording, and battery power in a self-contained package.
Data loggers can employ sensors that measure temperature, relative humidity, light, and other parameters, and they monitor and record data at user-defined intervals (minutes, hours, or days) and can collect data for months at a time. Many temperature loggers are small enough to be placed in out-of-the-way locations where they can gather information in a workspace without being seen or disturbed. They can also be used over and over again, so the investment in a few data loggers can pay off big, even in a large facility.