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.

 

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By David Pospisil, Program Manager of Con Edison’s Commercial & Industrial Energy Efficiency Program

 

Buildings represent a large percentage of all the energy consumed in the United States. That’s why increasing the energy efficiency of buildings – especially existing ones – has become a major priority for many cities throughout the country. In addition to enhancing overall quality of life, transforming commercial and industrial properties combats climate change and fosters innovation that ultimately strengthens our economy.

 

This push for high-performance buildings has created a market ripe with innovations in building technology. Building technologies such as high-efficiency replacement motors, variable frequency drives (VFDs), lighting and controls for heating and cooling equipment are rapidly improving.

 

As these technologies continue to advance at an enormous pace, so must our approach to keeping building systems optimized and efficient. Keeping abreast of building technology has become much like staying on top of a business’ IT infrastructure. We don’t wait 10 years to upgrade computers because the technology improves at exponential rates. The same concept applies to building systems today. The longer a business waits to upgrade, the more that business ends up paying down the road.

 

The good news is that capital costs for energy-efficiency upgrades are declining and incentives are available to help businesses make smart investments in energy efficiency. In New York City and Westchester County, for example, commercial and industrial customers with a Con Edison electric or natural gas account may be eligible for the following incentives from Con Edison’s Commercial and Industrial Energy Efficiency Program:

 

  • Payment of up to 50% of costs, with a cap of $67,000, for a Level 3 energy audit
  • Rebates for high-efficiency electric and gas equipment including lighting fixtures and LED exit signs, packaged heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, motors, chillers, and water and steam boilers
  • Performance-based custom incentives for installing high-efficiency equipment or energy-saving solutions not eligible for equipment rebates

 

The Con Edison Green Team has an energy efficiency program available for almost every customer. To learn more about the Commercial and Industrial program or to find out which program is right for you, call the Green Team at 1-877-860-6118 or visit www.conEd.com/greenteam.

 

David Pospisil is Program Manager of Con Edison’s Commercial & Industrial Energy Efficiency Program, New York, N.Y. You can join the discussion on LinkedIn (Con-Edison-Commercial-Industrial), Facebook (ConEd Green Team C&I), Twitter (ConEd Green Team C&I) and YouTube (ConEd Green Team C&I).

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