Solar shading helps to create productive and healthy environments
In a typical commercial office building, 80-90% of the costs are attributable to the people who work in it – so ensuring the comfort of this expensive resource makes sense. And it’s not just commercial offices. Schools, hospitals and other public buildings all benefit from an internal environment that provides controlled comfort.
It’s estimated that we spend 90% of our time inside buildings. Consequently, the internal environment of a building is critical as:
- We have a very narrow band of tolerance to temperatures;
- High indoor temperatures are known to increase the prevalence of Sick Building Syndrome;
- Lower temperatures lead to reduced manual dexterity;
- Lower temperatures increase sensitivity to air movement, such as draughts;
- Indoor air quality can worsen with increased temperatures;
- Lack of connection to the outside and natural light is known to affect body rhythms;
- High air temperatures increase the sensation of dryness of the air.
Shading optimally integrated into the building design increases glazing areas, and has the potential to enhance thermal, visual and acoustic comfort. These factors are the boundary conditions of a more productive and safe working environment, as identified by the World Green Building Council.
Shading systems can therefore contribute to superior work performance, increased concentration and wellbeing in the workplace.
The benefit of increased natural daylighting in respect of productivity are significant. Lockheed Building 157, a daylit office building built in 1983 in Sunnyvale, California, is an example (Thayer, 1995). In addition to saving $500,000 in energy bills over the first year of occupation through the passive solar daylighting strategies in place, absenteeism decreased by 15% and the higher productivity of employees raised corporate profit, paying off the extra cost of construction in just one year.
Even marginal improvements in productivity have considerable financial implications. Beck et al (2010) estimated that an improvement of 1% would allow a financial payback greater than the energy costs incurred to run the building, amortising the extra capital investment cost to achieve better quality in a short timescale.
The optimum temperature range appears to be 20-24 degrees Celsius, with an optimum of 22 degrees (Sepp 2006).
High temperatures in classrooms have a negative effect on student performance. In a controlled Danish study, the performance of tasks was found to be better at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius compared with one of five degrees higher.
Access to windows and daylight resulted in a 15% reduction in absenteeism (Thay, 1995).
Office workers were found to perform 10%-25% better on tests of mental function and memory recall when they had the best possible views (Hesh, 2003).
The translation of productivity in economic terms, via meaningful financial metrics, is difficult. On other pages of the Shade IT website, we identify key measurements relating to light, heat and cooling which all have a fundamental effect on wellbeing and hence productivity.