Bjarne Olesen was on The Edifice Complex Podcast last week. If you don’t know this one, check it out. I have had the pleasure of hanging out with Robert Bean on a few of his trips to Austin - including when he spoke at the inaugural Humid Climate Conference - and he and his partner in crime Adam Muggleton have a great thing going. They deep dive into building science, and then jump over to development, sustainability, future systems and whatever else they fancy. It is a lot of fun.
Anyways, Bjarne Olesen is the current ASHREA President has more accolades to his name than I can list here. He is a rock star in the HVAC world and great to listen to.
One thing he said early on that stood out is that a 1% productivity loss in an office is equivalent to its the entire energy budget. This is one of those quietly monumental statements. He was referring to efforts to broaden the comfort ranges for conditioned space in building codes as a way to energy. If you look at things holistically though, the productivity losses from even a slight change in comfort levels will far outweigh the savings on the energy bill - potentially one of those Cobra Effect situations.
This has really broad implications. Adding natural light or views to trees and nature have been shown to increase productivity in employees and sales in retail environments. Increasing indoor air quality makes your sleep better and improves your cognitive function the next day. These are all things designers want to put in our buildings because they make for more beautiful spaces and healthier humans. Unfortunately we are often asked to justify the ROI of any perceived additional cost (what’s the ROI of a beautiful view or shadows play across your wall, or having kids without asthma?).
Better buildings with more robust walls, better windows, less air infiltration and well designed and built HVAC systems mean that more of the occupants will be more comfortable more of the time. That 1% productivity bump is the all the ROI you need.