April 1, 2014
The publication this week of the report Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability by the UN’s science panel that argues that the world is “ill-prepared” for risks from a changing climate, but that opportunities to respond to such risks still exist, proves more than ever that the built environment can play a vital role in helping to curb global warming. The most obvious place to start is by turning down the temperature of the office, which according to researchers from Lancaster University’s DEMAND Research Centre, has become warmer in recent years. As reported by Clickgreen, the researchers from Lancaster University say the average office temperature of 22 degrees C is way too high, and by simply turning down the thermostat and asking occupants to don another layer could do much to address global warming.
It may also, as a recent study by ventilation supplier Andrew Sykes found, help reduce the arguments amongst staff on whether the office is too stuffy or too cold.
According to Prof Elizabeth Shove of Lancaster University, the modern preference of maintaining a temperature of 22 degrees C is down to the influence of Ole Fanger, a Danish engineer, who devised a thermal comfort equation back in 1970 based on the assumption that occupants would wear business suits. As a result, the heating and cooling systems in the office and at home are designed to provide ‘comfortable’ conditions for people who are wearing relatively lightweight clothing.
Despite, or maybe because of this penchant for essentially overheating the workplace, less than a quarter of office workers find the temperature in their office comfortable, according to the Andrews Sykes survey of 2,000 office workers, with more than a third suggesting they take at least 10 minutes out of work each day due to temperature alone.
Only 24 per cent agreed that their office was an ideal temperature for working throughout the year.
The ramifications of this are larger than may be expected: 29 per cent of people surveyed estimate they spend between 10 and 30 minutes each workday not working due to an uncomfortable office temperature. A surprising 6 per cent believe they spend more than half an hour each day not working well for this reason.
Commenting on the research, Helen Pedder, head of HR for ClearSky HR, said: “Whether temperatures soar or plummet, unbearable office conditions can have a serious impact on employee health and well-being. Unfortunately the law is left open to misinterpretation by simply stating that employers must provide a ‘reasonable’ workplace temperature.
“Until health and safety guidance provides clear and coherent requirements, there are various steps that an employer can take to prevent a dip in productivity and performance. Relaxing dress code requirements where appropriate and providing heating and/or cooling devices are effective methods that help to regulate thermal comfort.”