July 18, 2013
We’d managed to avoid the topic “isn’t it really hot” on Office Insight but as the UK heat-wave enters its third week it’s become impossible to ignore. Employers are being urged by unions to relax workplace dress codes, with the TUC calling for the introduction of a maximum workplace temperature of 30C – or 27C for those doing strenuous work. Under current health and safety law, workplaces can’t legally fall below 16C but there is no upper limit. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) meanwhile, has issued a new guide that provides greater understanding and improved prediction of overheating in commercial buildings.
‘TM52: The limits of thermal comfort: avoiding overheating in European buildings’ is available on CIBSE’s online Knowledge Portal and will be soon followed by ‘TM49: Probabilistic design summer years for London’.
Both guides offer information to help avoid uncomfortable conditions for occupants. These support the existing publication ‘KS16: How to manage overheating in buildings’ which gives guidance for building managers and owners about the causes of overheating and how to mitigate it. CIBSE also provides guidance for building managers and occupants in the form of top tips on how to manage overheating, available to download from the CIBSE website.
Fergus Nicol, lead author of the Guide TM52 commented: “Overheating has become a major problem in building design. The rising cost of energy combined with global climate change has reduced the options available for building comfortable, low-energy buildings. Research has been directed towards methods for increasing indoor winter temperatures but this can lead to lightweight, highly insulated buildings that respond poorly in the summer. To assess this further, CIBSE responded by forming the Overheating Task Force.“
The CIBSE Overheating Task Force explored what is needed from building designers, service systems, ventilation and facilities management in order to maintain comfortable living and working conditions, especially in the summer months.
Occupant comfort is particularly important as it directly impacts productivity and health which in turn affects employers. Only recently it was quoted that Mark Zuckerburg, founder, Facebook, keeps his offices at 15°C as it is believed to increase productivity. CIBSE’s recommended temperature is 20°C.