March 8, 2016

Cold OfficeIf a commercial HVAC system breaks down in the middle of the workday, it can be a disaster for everyone involved. In large commercial buildings, an efficient HVAC system is essential for basic temperature regulation. No matter how sound a building’s outer envelope is, temperatures will plunge if HVAC mechanisms aren’t in place in a New York City winter!

Funny as it is to say, though, the “right” temperature for the office is often a topic of contention even when everything is working as it should. Different people have different perceptions of the temperature – what’s ideal for one might not work for another. Still, it falls to building managers to choose something that can serve as a happy medium for everyone.

An easy task, right? Wrong!

Basic protection from external climate is one of the fundamental chores of any building, yet deciding on a final temperature is harder than it looks. As the city looks forward to Spring temperatures, let’s dive a little deeper into office temperature and the feuds it can cause.

What’s “Room Temperature?” It Depends

Recently, research published in Nature Climate Change, a peer-reviewed scientific publication, gave credence to what many women have believed all along: Temperature needs for men and women are radically different. What’s more, operating temperatures for many buildings today are calculated using a formula based around the metabolic needs of men – which the authors go as far as to call “gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort.”

Generally speaking, men are comfortable at colder temperatures than women. Does that suggest there really is no answer to the question … that one group of people will inevitably be unhappy with whatever standard temperature is selected? Not exactly. Office Temperature DropResearch from the world of office productivity has suggested that certain temperature ranges enhance work performance. Perhaps, if ideal comfort is impossible, this offers a way forward?

A study from Cornell University suggested cold temperatures make typing errors more likely, increasing hourly cost of labor by as much as 10%. By raising the office temperature from 68 degrees to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, errors were reduced 44% and overall output increased 150%. The study author, director of the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, estimated that higher temperatures save employers as much as $2 per employee per hour.

A Good HVAC System Supports the “Right” Temperature – Whatever It Is

It might take lots of research – not to mention trial-and-error – to find the perfect temperature for your building. No matter what it turns out to be, however, one factor is essential to achieving it: An efficient and well-maintained commercial HVAC system.

Over time, a commercial HVAC will encounter performance issues like part failure and clogging that can reduce airflow substantially. Without a regular maintenance schedule, buildings soon fall prey to an expensive, underperforming, and even dangerous HVAC system. Having an ongoing service contract with a reputable HVAC system expert is key to worker comfort, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. To discover more, contact the experts at Donnelly Mechanical.

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