Possible solutions to “unequal” temperatures in the workplace

A recent scientific study (published by academic journal Plos One) revealed that the effects of temperature on workplace performance vary drastically across men and women

Of the 543 participants tested, the findings showed that women’s performance increased significantly in both maths and verbal communications when with higher indoor temperatures, whilst men presented the opposite performing better at lower temperatures. Based on the results, the researchers concluded that setting temperatures higher for gender mixed workspaces can improve overall productivity.

This study had some people flustered about how workplace buildings temperatures are currently set, as per another well-known study (on indoor climate regulations) the “thermal comfort model was developed in the 1960’s” and set to the standard metabolic rate of an average male. Thereby overestimating and disregarding female thermal comfort by up to 35%. What is more, this “set standard of thermal comfort” is a key contributor to energy non-efficient buildings.

 

Building temperatures

Building temperatures are largely controlled by building managers set to industry standards for the thermal comfort of around 80% of the building’s occupants. This inevitably means that 20% of occupants will always be uncomfortable.

FM’s know that temperature control in a building can be a challenging task, but they also understand that controlling and setting the right temperature is vital to creating a productive and energy-efficient workspace.

 

So, what are some solutions in devising thermal strategy plans to tailor to different end-user needs? 

 

Workspace design

All people have different metabolic rates and thus different perceptions of what temperature is most comfortable. Therefore, a building’s FM should constantly monitor and communicate with the facilities end-users to ensure temperature needs are being met. In this way, FMs can strategically set up different systems to deal with the different temperature challenges posed.

In workplaces, such as the New York Times office, there exists an “even-gender” split between employees. Thus, in handling thermal temperatures (to accommodate both genders) there are 8 different co-working spaces designed specifically with women in mind. For example, the seating has been fabricated in soft fabrics, like velvet, anticipating users with bare legs. Additionally, in the summertime the temperature is adjusted considering that men prefer 70 degrees Fahrenheit and women 2.5 degrees higher—thus the thermostats are set between 72 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. And in winter months, the workspace is strategically designed with basket of knitted cotton blankets, for workers in need of additional warmth.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

The ideal temperature in a building is mostly related to the humidity in the air because the temperature that is felt is directly influenced by the humidity in the indoor environment. And here, IoT is a specific solution which can measure the quality of the indoor air through many sensors positioned throughout a building.

These sensors are all interconnected to each other and to a communication network (i.e. to the internet and to any type of mobile app). And here the sensors, with use of Big Data allow for:

  • Real-time monitoring of indoor temperature, relative humidity and CO2 levels, measured in different rooms
  • The visualization on geographical map (or building plan) of the sensors’ measurement points
  • The consultation of historical data (in order to understand and anticipate the future)
  • And the generation of alerts when thresholds are exceeded

Source: Lionel Anciaux, 2018

IoT’s continuous measurement of indoor air quality makes it possible to contribute to an ideal indoor temperature, which can also be regulated within different areas of the building according to the strategic workspace design.

For example, customization can be created in specific co-working spaces where temperatures can be set to cooler or warmer thermal settings, so that anyone can move to the area that would best suit their needs. These thermal settings can be checked and monitored in real-time by the building’s FM’s—as well as viewed by building end-users seeking information about the indoor temperature of a specific work area.

Furthermore, the IoT can facilitate the accurate representation of thermal demand of all occupants in the building—thus leading to actual energy consumption predictions and thereby to energy savings. 

By devising thermal strategy plans, FM’s can concretely improve workplace experience by improving the workspace indoor ambient temperatures—which research has proven to contribute to better health and to increased overall productivity.

If you want to know more about effective and efficient work environments, click here.