Green Building Designs that Improve Worker Productivity

Oct. 30, 2013
A green building design might achieve high metrics for energy efficiency and return on investment, but if people are uncomfortable inside the building, it fails the most important test. This article shows how certain green building designs improve worker comfort and productivity.

This is the 3rd article in a five-part editorial series, which explains how thermal energy storage along with energy harvesting and green building design principles can make your next commercial build more comfortable and energy efficient. Best of all, these building principles cost no more than conventional construction. This editorial series is sponsored by Termobuild.

A building might achieve high metrics for energy efficiency and return on investment, but if people are uncomfortable inside the building, it fails the most important test. And unfortunately, discomfort is the reality in too many commercial structures today.

The Center for Building Performance and Design at Carnegie Mellon University found that the top two complaints in offices are that they are either too hot or too cold. Discomfort leads to lower worker productivity. For example, other studies have shown that more typing mistakes occur when a room is too cold. Conversely, workers in green buildings are absent less often due to illness.
Given that employees typically represent the top expense for businesses in office buildings – far more than energy – worker comfort is crucial to the bottom line.

Mimicking solar radiation

Thermal energy storage structures are pleasant to be inside because they use radiant heating and cooling. This approach offers a superior comfort aesthetic. The heating and cooling system mimics what we feel when we stand near a roaring fire or when we emerge outdoors on a spring day and the sun’s radiation gradually warms our skin. But in this case the gradual warmth or cooling radiates from the structure’s concrete floors and walls.

In contrast, forced-air systems blast cold or hot air from ducts. Blowing air – even if it is hot – can actually make us feel chilly rather than warm. That is one of the reasons radiant systems are more energy efficient than forced-air systems. A radiant system offers the feeling of warmth at a lower thermostat setting. And the cement in the Termobuild design holds the warmth or coolness for long periods of time; there is no need for the constant running of motors and fans to keep the temperature consistent. Moreover, radiant systems avoid the notorious leakage caused by forced air, as it propels air against ductwork seams, doors and windows.

Supercharging with fresh air

This type of green building system is also healthier – for more than one reason. First, radiant heat does not dry the atmosphere as forced-air systems do. And it does not spread pathogens by constantly blowing air, providing important health benefits.

Perhaps most important, the Termobuild smart floor system offers extraordinary fresh air exchange. A thermally charged building normally can afford the luxury of over-ventilating because it harvests free low-grade energy while cleansing the building. This multi-tasking feature is built in and free. Fresh air not only adds to the ‘feel good’ sense of a room, but it also helps prevent the spread of communicable disease from one room to another.

Moreover, Termobuild cleanses at exactly the right time. Night air is cleaner than day air because it contains less car exhaust and other toxins. It is during this period – when the air is freshest – which draws the outdoor air in to supercharge its smart floor. Thus, when workers arrive in the morning, they enter a building where the indoor air is often cleaner than the outdoor air. Medical workers, in particular, appreciate this feature.

Add today’s smart thermostats and building management systems – to the already superior performance brought by fresh-air supercharging and radiant heating and cooling– and a Termobuild structure offers a combination of comfort, energy efficiency and health benefits rarely found in a commercial building.

The next article in this series shows why you want to be in a supercharged building when the electric grid fails. If you prefer you can download the full whitepaper from the Energy Efficiency Markets white paper library.

About the Author

Kevin Normandeau | Publisher

Kevin is a veteran of the publishing industry having worked for brands like PC World, AOL, Network World, Data Center Knowledge and other business to business sites. He focuses on industry trends in the energy efficiency industry.