An increasing proportion of global GDP is produced in office environments. Impressive office towers are landmarks of urbanisation and wealth, but nevertheless, their indoor air quality is often a neglected design parameter.
A number of scientific studies indicate that elevated temperatures and poor air quality can negatively affect work performance.
“As designers we should focus on creating positive mental well-being for people in buildings rather than the absence of ill health. In this, daylight plays a crucial role”, professor Koen Steemers from Cambridge University accentuated at the 6th Daylight Symposium held in London, September 2015, an international forum for daylight researchers.
Productivity can increase by up to 10%
A study from the Technical University of Denmark by indoor climate scientists Pawel Wargocki and David P. Wyon, from 2013, revealed that the indoor environment can influence work productivity by up to 10%.
Tasks requiring concentration, memory and original thought are particularly susceptible to poor indoor air quality (Source: “Effects of indoor environment on performance”, David P. Wyon and Pawel Wargocki, ASHRAE Journal, March 2013, pp 46-50).
The importance of daylight
Daylighting in particular, is closely interlinked with improved mood, less fatigue, and reduced eyestrain (DEIC Handbook page 25). Different studies have documented that the performance and productivity of workers in office, industrial, and retail environments can increase with the quality of light.
In the US, one company succeeded in raising work productivity simply by relocating their employees to a new building with better daylight conditions, resulting in considerable financial gain (Edwards and Torcellini, 2002, page 25 in the DEIC Handbook).
Natural ventilation can help prevent overheating in office buildings
Larger commercial buildings, such as office buildings, typically have more complex requirements to control air quality. The ventilation rate is often determined by the cooling need rather than the need for fresh air supply for the occupants.
With increasing requirements for the energy performance of buildings, the need for heating is lower in new office buildings than 10-20 years ago, and the cooling need is increasing.
“Modern office buildings have a low heat loss which makes the summer situation increasingly challenging. Natural ventilation in the summer, spring and autumn periods can significantly reduce the energy use and contributes to improved comfort”, says Peter Foldbjerg, head of the VELUX Knowledge Center.
Natural ventilation can be combined with mechanical ventilation with good results. It can be referred to us night cooling or ventilative cooling.
Indoor environment investments lead to generous returns
The value of work created in a building are outweighed with by operations and construction costs and therefore a small investments in the indoor work environment can produce generous returns, a report by the Life Cycle Costing expert Davis Langdon has shown (Source: Daylight & Architecture, Issue 23, page 92).
In some cases operational and construction can be outweighed by a factor of five.