Our vision of wellness
Comfort and energy efficiency in workspaces : can they both win ?
It’s 8 am, employees are slowly coming in, a feeling of cold invades them, like every morning since the company moved into this newly refurbished building. And the afternoon will be no better, some predict.
However, they were assured that this magnificent glass tower, inaugurated with great fanfare, was a model of engineering and design, a Smart Building like the very best. Nevertheless it was better before, in the old building of the 80s, they each had their own desk, and they were never cold, a little hot in summer (the air conditioning had given up the ghost) but they were feeling good.
However, now we can complain more easily.
I grant you, this is not Zola, but the story is inspired by real and increasingly common facts.
So, to put it simply, we have buildings designed to be energy efficient (on paper), but as soon as you put people in it, the performance disappears. Why ?
Technology is not everything
One day Picasso said “Computers are useless. They only know how to give answers”. And he was right. No matter how well we equip our buildings with thousands of sensors that report millions of data points, to have fully automated and artificially intelligent technical management systems, the discomfort felt is always present. Why ? Several answers are put forward:
- Intelligent systems in the building call for new skills and new trades. However, the design, implementation and use of such systems are not without risk and present a certain level of technicality which is not yet within the reach of all operational staff;
- Modeling which does not take sufficient account of risks and uses;
- The needs of the occupants are not sufficiently taken into account in the design and equipment of these new spaces; Companies tend to focus on technical and structural changes to achieve consumption reduction targets, forgetting the essential involvement of building occupants;
- The user of the intelligent building is more demanding and therefore more easily dissatisfied.
The human factor is not everything
Comfort will always vary depending on the individual. In addition, the perception that the user of the corporate building has is particular in that it is subject to higher expectations than with regard to his own home. The true intelligence of the building is then defined as that capable of responding to individuality. When it does not, the discomfort increases.
But it is a mistake to believe that the Grail of 90% satisfied is unattainable due to the complexity of the human factor. The designers of buildings, in particular energy efficient buildings, construct a figure of the occupant as a disruptive element. Either he is given as little leeway as possible on technical systems, or he has to be "educated" him as if he were "unskilled". They therefore set up complex, rigid management systems which users find it difficult to appropriate. They do not hesitate to bypass them to alleviate discomfort, or express their dissatisfaction if necessary.
It would therefore be reductive to attribute energy overconsumption solely to the human factor.
Maintenance is not everything
The optimization of equipment and the technical management of the building are the responsibility of the facility manager. To be effective, implementation requires technical skills and organized and sustained mobilization over time on the part of many actors. The equipment must be adjusted with precision when it is installed and follow-up will confirm that it is working properly. This therefore requires adequate training of operators, particularly in the case of a complex management system.
But that is not enough, because you have to understand the human factor and be able to understand individual data, and not just data coming from the Building Technical Management System.
But put those 3 together ...
By combining technique and human relationships, comfort and energy performance become allies:
- The technique must be put at the service of the comfort of the occupant. The building is above all a working tool, it houses an activity that must be efficient if we want energy savings not to be lost.
This is why, for example, the technical management of the building must offer possibilities for individualization. The mere feeling of control leads to a reduction in dissatisfaction.
- In order to promote self-regulation, the occupant must be informed of the operating mode of the building :
o organize visits in small groups to discover the technical management systems.
o Explain how the lighting, thermostat, ventilation work.
o Meeting with facility management teams
- Ideally future residents should be involved in the design and layout of spaces so that these reflect accordingly the expected usage and induce appropriate behavior.
- It is necessary to understand the behavior of users within the building. The comfort parameters must be measured near them. We must also offer them the opportunity to express their feedback, i.e. their perception of their work environment so that the corrective actions are adapted.
- To optimize maintenance operations, it is necessary to facilitate dialogue between technicians and occupants. The incident report must be simple, it must provide the assurance that it has been taken into account and that it will be dealt with within a defined period. Otherwise, the feedback to the building managers is reduced and no longer offers the possibility of better knowing its behavior.
- It is necessary to make surveys of the occupants to discover the possible levers for optimization.
- Finally, let's play on transparency! There is often a fear that informing occupants of the physical conditions of their workspace is a way of reaching out to get beaten. On the contrary, transparency pushes for improvement and dialogue. And knowledgeable occupants are more empathetic.