Consider this. You’re the CEO of a small software startup getting ready to launch your first big app. A significant amount of money and time has been invested into the project. The old saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression” is keeping you up at night. But have you thought about your Indoor Air Quality(IAQ) relative to the project and employee performance? Of course not. But maybe you should.
Optimized IAQ Improves Cognitive Function & Employee Performance
That hypothetical CEO depends on employee performance being at the highest levels. Mistakes are not an option. When those programmers are debugging the new application, they must be focused. Can building conditions such as ventilation rates, temperature, humidity and odors affect workers’ cognitive abilities? You bet it can! And a recent series of studies has found the correlation.
Joseph Allen, along with colleagues from Harvard University, Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical conducted a two-phase study to see if better IAQ can influence employee performance. They studied a worker’s ability to process information, make strategic decisions and respond to crises under different indoor environmental conditions.
“We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, yet we spend almost all of our time thinking about outdoor air pollution,” said Joseph Allen, director of the three-year-old Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, which has studied the benefits of keeping employees in top form. “What we’re doing here is quantifying what people intuitively know. When you’re stuck in a conference room that’s too hot, there’s no ventilation, you don’t perform as well.”
Phase one of the double-blind study tested 24 “knowledge workers” (managers, designers, and architects) over a two-week period at the Syracuse Center of Excellence. These workers were required to basically be themselves, performing their normal 9-5 work routine in this highly-controlled environment. Unbeknownst to them, the researchers shifted the IAQ conditions from a minimal accepted standard baseline to an optimized environment. At the end of each day, as the conditions were gradually improved, the subject’s decision making performance was tested using a standardized cognitive function test. The results were encouraging.
The research team found that optimized IAQ led to significantly better performance among all participants. Higher test scores were recorded across nine cognitive functions when ventilation rates were increased (and finally doubled), VOCs (chemical cleaners, dry erase makers, building materials, etc.) were decreased and carbon dioxide was reduced. The most remarkable gains were made how workers plan, stay focused and strategized.
The second phase of the study moved from the lab into the real world. 100 knowledge workers were tested for cognitive function in 10 IAQ tested buildings throughout the U.S. Six of the buildings were “green certified”. The study found that workers in the green buildings scored higher on the range of tests. Along with the improved IAQ factors of ventilation, VOCs, and CO2, workers in environments with comfortable temperature and humidity levels also performed better.
“What should leaders and building managers take away from these findings?” says Mr. Allen, “The short answer is that better air quality in your office can facilitate better cognitive performance among your employees.”
What Can Be Done to Improve IAQ and Performance?
Even though most executives/managers focus on energy costs, and rightly so, 90% of a business’ operating costs tied to its workers. In fact, one study reported that building managers tend to overestimate energy costs by multiple factors!
Managers should then look at IAQ indicators to see where improvements can made. Building scientists that specialize in IAQ testing can be called upon to conduct a survey of a facility and report the findings. Data from such a study can be used to correct any deficiencies found, as well as, optimize areas that could potentially cause issues. With the prevalence of deferred maintenance programs cost is always an issue. However, the cost of improving IAQ is far lower than most think.
The joint Harvard study modeled costs with four different types of HVAC systems in different climate zones with different energy sources in the U.S. The estimates show that doubling ventilation rates would be less than $40 per person, per year. When energy-efficient systems are used, the cost would be less than $10 per person per year. The study also used the benchmarked cognitive function testing results and paired the percentile increase in scores to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the BENEFITS to employee performance from doubling ventilation rates are $6,500 per person per year! This doesn’t include other health benefits from hygienically cleaning HVAC systems to avert Sick Building Syndrome and the human health issues it can cause, such as allergies, asthma and absenteeism.
Moving forward it would be a good practice for managers to incorporate IAQ health impacts into their cost-benefit calculations when planning. When employee performance/productivity benefits are clearly shown the C-suite can then see the correlation between spending to enhance facilities and reducing human resource costs.
Hopefully, our hypothetical CEO and his software company are open minded to making improvements based on research like this. Maybe they will even develop the next IAQ testing app.
Article Source: http://pureaircontrols.com/iaq-employee-performance-linked/
BenchmarkMyBuilding™ leverages the largest data set of its kind, representing 68 billion square feet of buildings, to quickly benchmark consumption and costs
OAKLAND, CA–(Marketwired – Mar 15, 2017) – Lucid, provider of the most comprehensive business intelligence platform for building operations, today unveiled BenchmarkMyBuilding, the industry’s first free self-service benchmark for building energy consumption and costs. Others have created proprietary benchmarks on select data sets, but BenchmarkMyBuilding is the first to leverage the expansive data available through multiple government data sources to enable rapid performance comparisons against similar buildings. Created in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratory, through the DOE Small Business Voucher Program, BenchmarkMyBuilding for the first time enables anyone to leverage the billions of data points on commercial building energy use from the DOE and Energy Star. The benchmark calculates the associated annual energy costs, and delivers the findings in an intuitive report that can be shared with collaborators, operators, investors, and occupants.
Easy Inputs, Invaluable Insights
Unlike over-simplified energy calculators that pull some estimated numbers from a sampling of a vendor’s customer base, BenchmarkMyBuilding integrates data from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star Target Finder and the. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Performance Database. The DOE and Energy Star have assembled the largest database of information related to building energy consumption in the world, representing nearly 4.8 million buildings, comprising 68 billion square feet of commercial building space. However these databases are geared toward skilled engineers rather than more general business audiences, and do not prioritize cost information.
Lucid weaves these data sets together to provide both cost and consumption benchmarks, with insights into how much improvement is possible. Traditionally, the process to calculate such insights could take weeks for teams to undertake, and would require specialized industry expertise. BenchmarkMyBuilding removes those barriers, making valuable comparisons and instant visibility over the energy efficiency potential of buildings available to anyone.
From only three simple inputs (building type, building size, and building location) users can immediately view key performance indicators such as energy cost, energy consumption, energy use intensity, and comparative performance in intuitive and readily shareable visuals. With additional inputs, users can get a customized energy use report that compares specific buildings with peer buildings and calculates the potential value of improved performance.
“Prior to having BenchmarkMyBuilding, it was challenging to come up with a consistent benchmark for all of our buildings. We had both EnergyStar and DOE sources and weren’t sure about how to intertwine them. This will be great for people trying to get started during the initial stages of benchmarking.”
— Dana Jennings, Global Sustainability Project Manager, LinkedIn
“As the Principal Investigator of the DOE Building Performance Database I’m committed to broadly supporting data-driven decision-making using empirical data. I’m especially enthused by our collaboration with BPD users such as Lucid who deliver insights from the largest database of building data through user-friendly, engaging visuals.”
— Paul Mathew, Creator of the DOE Building Performance Database, Department Head of Whole Building Systems, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
“This benchmarking solution allows energy managers, building owners and operators to access clear comparisons of their buildings’ energy cost and performance compared to similar buildings using the vast DOE datasets. Armed with this information, energy and sustainability managers can quickly communicate with other stakeholders about energy expenditures, so they can take steps to make buildings more sustainable, more cost-effective for owners and more attractive to investors and tenants.”
— Jessica Granderson, Deputy for Research Programs, Building Technology and Urban Systems Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
“Lucid is committed to improving the environmental and financial performance of buildings for owners, investors, operators and occupants. We believe BenchmarkMyBuilding will help operators see the potential opportunities for improving performance and galvanize stakeholders to take action. For too long simple, accurate benchmarking has been too cumbersome. This free platform delivers results in a matter of seconds, empowering every building stakeholder to evaluate the opportunities and drive improved decisions.”
Article Source: http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/lucid-doe-national-lab-team-provide-first-kind-free-building-benchmarking-capability-2203190.htm
Photo of the Month – Look For FunGuy Before You Buy
Real Estate Los Angeles, CA
Thinking you might skip the mold inspection before you buy one of the most expensive purchases in your lifetime? During any real estate transaction, a potential homeowner must decide what type of inspections they should conduct before buying the property.
The truth is, a real estate mold inspection will help identify features of your building, undetected by your standard home inspection report. The above photo is taken from a real estate inspection for mold and water damage. The Building Inspection Service identified areas of water damaged materials. After further inspection, these materials had been removed, repaired and painted prior to fun guy’s scheduled building inspection. Our certified mold inspector was able to identify pipes, repaired, but still leaking below the sink!
From the field of view in the picture, you can tell how the area had been painted white within the cabinet in an attempt to hide the visible conditions of water damage and mold growth. Left Side of the Photo
Upon further inspection (lifting the board up) of the area below the kitchen sink, black mold was revealed on the wall below the kitchen cabinet’s (false) flooring. Right side of the Photo
Water Damage to the base of the kitchen cabinets and surrounding supports appeared more extensive and began to spread to others areas in the building. Including a closet and the garage, the walls surrounding the kitchen were also affected by water damage and toxic mold growth conditions.
The buyer was aware of the areas that could not be covered up with paint. Exposed during Fun Guy’s Real Estate Mold Inspection Building Report, the true conditions were reported on the building prior to the real estate purchase.
A Building Inspection Check List includes a Real estate mold inspection. Fun Guy Inspection & Consulting LLC makes every attempt to identify areas of moisture intrusion, measure the areas of moisture content of the building materials, and identify any unsightly mold growth – Look for FunGuy before You Buy.
by Fun Guy Inspection & Consulting LLC