Thursday September 06, 2018
It’s been a long hot summer and if it’s not already, 2018 is likely to go down as the one of the hottest and longest since records began. The last time we had anything like these temperatures was back in 1976, but many of today’s workers don’t remember the last extraordinary long hot summer.
For some companies the splendid sunshine has brought business benefits. It’s been great for retail with summer clothes selling out at full price and for cafes and restaurants, especially those with outside tables. But it’s not all been good news. Some office workers haven’t fared as well in the heat.
Maximum and minimum temperatures for offices
The law is no help when it comes to finding the perfect temperature with the suggested minimum working temperature being a somewhat chilly 16 degrees Celsius, and lower still if physical activity is involved in the job. There’s no maximum temperature either. Employers do have a duty of care to make working conditions reasonable for their employees, but what does that mean in reality?
We believe the optimal temperature for office workers to be around 20 to 22 degrees, a temperature that’s easily exceeded in the summer with added heat emitting from computers, printers and other electronic equipment. Opening windows may not be an option. Certainly, in city centres where air pollution is a big problem. On 27 August 2018 a report was published in China by Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang called ‘The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance’, that showed a reduction in productivity from even short-term exposure to air pollution. There is also an added issue of noise pollution from traffic when windows are open.
Switching on the air conditioning to super chill can create pockets of ice cold air. We’ve all seen the ridiculous situation where it’s baking hot outside, but people are wearing jumpers or cardigans because the inside air is simply too cold.
Air conditioning and heating
This battle between too hot and too cold has been recognised as an expensive problem in the Carbon Trust’s report published in December 2017, ‘Heating ventilation and air conditioning: Saving energy without compromising comfort’. It suggests creating a ‘dead band’ between 19 and 24 degrees Celsius where neither the air con or heating kicks in when temperatures are within these limits.
From our experience, having such a wide band between the cooling and heating will only work if the air is distributed evenly. Personal comfort factors also need to be taken into consideration, as one person might like to be warmer than another. However, this is made worse by cold spots caused by draughts and hot spots by solar gain through windows which can cause spikes in the temperature. These can make occupants feel too hot or too cold despite the air temperature being relatively consistent elsewhere in the room.
Consistency is the key, and consistency comes from air distribution. If you have ever sat under an air conditioning unit blasting out chilled air, you’ll know how quickly it makes you cold, but how big the contrast is when you move away from the air flow. A well-designed air diffusion scheme means the air supplied to a room is comfortable to everyone occupying it.
Distributing air across ceiling level allows the air to be projected evenly throughout the room above everyone’s heads. Then as hot air rises and the cooler air falls, the temperature change feels gentler, rather than anyone feeling that they’ve been sitting in a blast chiller!
As well as keeping workers happier and more comfortable, ensuring temperatures are more consistent will save money on office heating and cooling.
Order a copy of our Green Book to get all the information you need to choose the right products for air distribution for every indoor environment.
Air Distribution Link: https://www.waterloo.co.uk/products/product-catalogues/
Green Book Link: https://www.waterloo.co.uk/technical/the-green-book/