Article

Cutting back on the most common office complaints

Nobody notices when temperature control and heating are all working as intended but as soon as they go wrong they can have a serious impact on productivity.

November 13, 2015
People working in modern office

In your office, do people sit at their desks with their coats buttoned up, warming their hands on coffee mugs? It’s more common than you think.

Even new, green buildings can become uncomfortably hot or cold when a little-discussed but important process called building commissioning doesn’t quite go according to plan.

Beyond the cubicles, behind the walls, buildings are complex ecosystems of sensors, wiring and machinery that work together to condition the office environment. Building commissioning is an assessment process that determines how a structure operates as a whole, and addresses the root causes of building issues like equipment and system malfunctions.

When temperature control and heating are all working as intended they’re the things that nobody notices but as soon as they go wrong they can have a serious impact on productivity and leave employees feeling extremely disgruntled. After all, who gets a lot of work done when wearing mittens to the office in the summer?

Making offices a more comfortable place

Commissioning is a proactive way to avoid problems before they happen. Instead of finding a temporary fix every time it becomes a problem, commission can reduce long term costs, and fixes problems, allowing people to focus on their actual work.

By incorporating commissioning processes into construction and operations, facility managers can improve how all of these systems work together. It is like a tune-up for a building, says Adrian Sluga, Senior Vice President of Commissioning and Building Analytics, JLL Canada.

“Commissioning captures opportunities which typically go unnoticed and ultimately have a negative impact on the occupant,” he explains. “Physical comfort is arguably the most important aspect of a productive office environment, and a little added effort saves significant time, money, and reduces stress levels later on.”

Here are three of the many common complaints that commissioning can help resolve:

1. Getting the temperature wrong

Air temperature is the number one complaint from office workers. If someone complains to you about the cold (or hot) temperature in the office, it has significant cost implications. Each incremental step to address an unresolved problem wastes additional time, money and manpower. However, by regularly conducting a building commissioning process, such risks and issues are brought to an absolute minimum.

2. Wasted electricity

We often take for granted the modern convenience of lighting controls. Motion sensors often handle the task of turning on/off the lights, and so do automatic schedules. But have you ever seen a building that’s lit like a Christmas tree in the middle of the night? It’s a good bet that people aren’t working, and they have no idea that the electricity bill keeps running as they’ve long since left for home. What’s more, Smart Buildings tie lighting & Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems together, which looks to simplify and make seamless building operations. The problem is that these discreet systems often don’t communicate well. By incorporating commissioning, and testing for both function and performance, Owners & tenants can extend equipment life, improve performance and serviceability, and reduce utility costs.

3. Poor concentration

Background noise is a killer for concentration especially when it comes from malfunctioning equipment and poorly managed maintenance processes. World Green Building Council included research in its report, Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building, which found that there was 66 percent drop in performance when participants were exposed to background noise. Open floor plan or not, an office inherently bustles with activity, so by commissioning, one less source of noise can help aid productivity.

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