Exploring employee wellness and building energy efficiency

15 Jun 2013 by Peter

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At Greensense, we’re really interested in the relationship between the wellness of a building’s occupants and the “wellness” of a building, measured in terms of building energy efficiency. In tandem they define to a large extent what we mean by sustainability in the workplace.

There are a couple of areas that we’re exploring that impact both the health and well-being of building users as well as the performance of the building itself. One is occupancy – so when and how people move through buildings (this is also tightly linked to Activity Based Working) – and the other is Indoor Environmental Quality or IEQ, so looking at how factors such as temperature, carbon dioxide and VOC levels affect how people feel, which in turn impacts things like productivity.

We’ll talk more about IEQ another time, but for now I just wanted to briefly discuss occupancy tracking.

There are a number of different ways to monitor people movement and even more ways to interpret and use that info. One simple technique that we’ve used in the past, and that works great in multi-floor offices, is to track how people move between floors.

We first started playing around with people movement tracking with AECOM and the Australian National University in ANU’s new student accommodation building. The principle is simple; where possible our buildings should allow (better still, encourage!) us to take the stairs rather than a lift. It’s good for us and it’s good for building energy efficiency.

Stair Wars with Greensense View

We’re now working with one of our favourite clients, the RAC in Western Australian, on a similar project to promote sustainability in the workplace. RAC WA is already using the Greensense View┬« platform to monitor energy and water consumption throughout their head office and we’ve just expanded that service to include integration with some clever tracking hardware. These are located in the stair wells between floors and track human traffic through the building.

The initiative has two main goals: Firstly, to explore whether, by encouraging staff to take the stairs, we can materially reduce energy consumption through the lifts (more on once we start seeing some data) and; secondly, to support their participation in the Global Corporation Challenge. This is a great initiative aimed at helping corporations and their staff improve sustainability in the workplace through a bit of old fashioned competition.

All in all, it’s a great example of how we should look to tie together building amenity, occupant well-being and environmental performance to provide cooler, greener spaces.

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