By Mark Newton, Sales Director
In large office and commercial buildings, the air quality and environmental conditions are tightly controlled but are they being monitored and analysed correctly? Energy and operational efficiencies are often considered when it comes to sending commands to the HVAC equipment but it is vital that we also consider the comfort of occupants. As research shows, the environment can have a huge impact on peoples’ productivity.
According to a study for the British Council of Offices by Oxford Brookes University and LCMB Building Performance*, the performance of office workers actually declines when CO2 levels are high and temperatures are too warm or cold. This was one of the first practical studies into UK indoor office environments and highlighted some important issues when it comes to occupancy comfort and productivity. The workplaces that took part in the study were tested for a two-year period and had internet of things (IoT) enabled sensors installed to monitor fluctuating CO2 levels.
The results showed that with lower CO2 levels, employees’ test scores improved by up to 12%. In one of the buildings tested, people worked 60% faster with reduced CO2 concentrations, completing tests in a mean time of 8.2 minutes, compared with 13.3 minutes with more CO2 in the atmosphere.
The study also highlighted that it is important that we do not consider energy efficiency and occupancy comfort in silos. Often, in an office, the atmosphere can start to feel stuffy and people put that down to it being hot so they turn up the air conditioning becoming less energy efficient. However, it is more commonly down to the CO2 levels and it a change in the air quality that is needed not a change in temperature. The study also showed that closer monitoring of the CO2 levels meant that fan speeds could be significantly decreased without adversely affecting the CO2 levels in the workspace.
This was a fascinating study and truly highlighted the impact CO2 can have on the office environment.
At Sontay we are able to offer a full complement of CO2 sensors. They feature a non-dispersive infrared sensor for measuring carbon dioxide concentrations and utilises microprocessor-based electronics. The unique self-calibration algorithm offers long-term stability and accuracy. They can be fitted with a temperature output alone or a temperature and relative humidity output. A directly connected passive resistive temperature output is also available, as an alternative to the standard active temperature output.
CO2 monitoring is often overlooked but so important. The study sums it up well when it says, ‘People are a business’ biggest cost, and yet most workplaces aren’t optimised to get the best from them.’ The key to getting the best out of people is improving the environment we make them work in.