Energy-Efficient Solutions And Maintain Employee Well Being

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energy-efficient solutions for office buildings

Decoupling Human Comfort From High Energy Consumption

Energy efficiency (i.e., the ratio of the output of performance to input of energy) in office buildings can reduce CO2 emissions and energy costs, but there are barriers to widespread adoption of energy-efficient solutions in offices since they’re often perceived as a possible threat to perceived comfort, well-being, and functionality of office users.

This is a summary of available data and other published articles which were reviewed and published in Frontiers of Psychology. The systematic review was conducted by Laurentiu Paul Maricutoiu, Malgorzata W. Kozusznik, Delia Mihaela Vîrgǎ, José M. Peiró, Aida Soriano, and Carolina Mateo-Cecilia.

Offices Energy Efficacy And Consumers

The links between offices’ energy efficacy and consumers’ performance and health through their moderators are neither required nor empirically verified. The purpose of this study is to conduct a systematic review to identify the present empirical evidence about the links between energy-efficient solutions in sustainable office buildings as well as the perceptions of workers’ productivity and well-being.

Energy efficiency has become a permanent issue for modern organizations. It can be seen as the ratio of production output (e.g., thermal comfort) to the energy input.

 

From an environmental standpoint, improving energy efficiency could result in reducing CO2 emissions, lowering workplace buildings’ carbon footprint and, thus counteracting climate change. One of the most massive consumers of energy is office buildings.

Indeed, energy is an operational expense for office buildings. In the U.S., it represents around 19 percent of the total overhead for the typical office building.

The advantages of introducing energy-efficient solutions can be significant, and they can help offices save between 45 and 55 percent of their energy costs.

Despite these certain benefits, sustainable energy conservation actions to reduce energy consumption in office buildings are not adopted widely enough in organizations, due to some existing barriers. For the employer, it is not clear if energy-efficient solutions in office buildings are beneficial for office users concerning performance and satisfaction. In this case, a significant obstacle is an information and knowledge about financial, health, well-being, and comfort benefits of energy-efficient.

Owners or managers of office buildings are often reluctant to employ energy-efficient solutions, because of their concerns about keeping employees prolific in a cozy environment with decent indoor environmental quality (IEQ) conditions (e.g., acoustics, lighting, air quality; that includes using electrical equipment. This resonates with an old delusion that energy efficiency needs sacrifices in terms of users’ comfort.

Generally, this all indicates that it’s not been made obvious enough that corporations can save money because of adopting energy-efficient solutions in offices while assuring their employees’ well-being and performance. Therefore, it’s a challenge to make them see that the prospect of decoupling elevated levels of comfort and performance from high energy-related expenses.

Based on these concepts, decoupling energy costs from performance and well-being is possible, until the fit between the office user and the office environment is ensured. This is, however, not an easy task.

Human factors may play an essential role in meeting these challenges by complementing the design procedure of sustainability-based, ergonomically, and ecologically optimized solutions, and still being able to produce high satisfaction and performance.

Employee’ Performance and Well-Being in Sustainable Office Buildings

Employee performance and well-being are broad categories that include workplace influence (e.g., positive or negative effect, comfort), attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction), motivational factors (e.g., work participation, work self-efficacy), and cognitive factors that are linked to both health and performance.

The section of employee health is also broad. Also, it includes both subjective (e.g., mental health) and objective (e.g., health complaints) health. Likewise, employee performance encompasses different facets, such as creative and adaptive performance, contextual performance, task performance, and counter-productive behavior.

Do sustainable buildings be able to reach their goals?

Is it possible to maintain office workers’ health and productivity while assuring the energy efficiency of office buildings and, hence, decouple energy costs from health and productivity?

In this case, decoupling describes ways for businesses to improve their results (e.g., employees’ performance and well-being) while decreasing their environmental footprints (e.g., being energy efficient), and it’s been suggested as the fundamental challenge of our era.

So as to address these objectives, we examined the literature on employee responses (about well-being and functionality) to sustainable structures. We also studied the literature on employee reactions to specific energy-efficient solutions adopted in sustainable buildings to decrease thermal and lighting energy costs.

We can identify buildings that show that green buildings can have damaging outcomes for office renters in terms of well, most of the studies involved in this review imply that green office buildings improve employees’ health and performance. There is also research that implies that green buildings have a neutral effect on well-being.

Eventually, the research reveals some moderators in the link between employees’ outcomes and sustainable buildings, such as the level of occupants’ control over their office environment, users’ adaptive behavior in energy-efficient buildings, services furnished by the facility management, practical training in high-performance building features, or using private workspaces.

Employee Reactions to Solutions Aimed at Decreasing Lighting Expenses

Electric lighting is one of the high costs of any building. Lighting is estimated to represent about 19 percent of the total generated electricity, and it accounts for 30 to 40% of their total energy consumption in office buildings

The foremost challenge of this research domain is to obtain the optimal balance between providing daylight into offices (to reduce electrical lighting costs) and to provide enough shade (to prevent the rising costs of cooling the building).

The evidence implies that the solutions intended at decreasing lighting costs are successful in decreasing these expenses while managing or enhancing workplace users’ comfort and performance. This was shown in the research that studies on three different kinds of sustainable solutions, that is, introducing sensors, blinds systems, and efficient lighting sources that provide more illuminance with less energy.

This data is important for the decoupling issue because it symbolizes that it is possible to maintain workplace user’s well-being and productivity while ensuring the energy efficiency of office buildings and, thus, decoupling energy costs from productivity and well-being. This manner, using energy-efficient lighting options, is a way for companies to improve their results (e.g., employees’ performance and well-being) while decreasing their environmental footprints (e.g., utilizing less power for lighting).

Employee Feedback to Solutions Focused On Decreasing Thermal Costs

Policies directed to reducing thermal costs include careful planning and design of cooling or heating facilities, reductions in thermal losses by implementing improved thermal insulation or changing indoor temperature.

First, the research suggests that, regardless of the time of the year, perceived control is a significant moderator between objective measures and subjective ratings of indoor temperatures. The review revealed that the occupants’ perceived control over the indoor climate has a strong influence on their satisfaction with indoor thermal conditions.

Second, climate may be a determinant factor for the moderating role of age, sex, or weight.

Lastly, outside window proximity can also be a determinant factor for thermal relief. Especially, people working far from a window observed more thermal relief than those working close to a window.

Sustainable office solutions focused on reducing thermal costs in offices may maintain well-being or increase it, and also increase the performance of workers, while, at the same time, reducing thermal expenses. Future research in this area should consider the role of the perceived control, climate, and/or weight, season, sex, age, and location in the office as potential moderators in the link between sustainable thermal systems in offices and the outcomes of office users.

Conclusion

The results suggest that green building solutions can generally be an excellent step to reduce energy costs without jeopardizing the well-being and performance. They indicate that decoupling may be slightly more effective in increasing or maintaining office users’ well-being and functionality in the event of sustainable solutions applied to light and thermal conditions, compared to common energy-saving sustainable interruptions in office buildings.

The research results can serve as a useful reference for different stakeholders interested in implementing adopting energy-saving measures in offices, green building solutions, and improving employees’ functioning. They especially imply that organizations willing to implement energy-efficient solutions can do this on different scales:

  • They could implement them locally in the employee level (e.g., user-in-the-loop methods),
  • Apply sustainable solutions to many work stations at the workplace level (e.g., lighting resources that produce more illuminance with less energy),
  • Or design or refurbish entire office buildings based on low-energy certification criteria (e.g., LEED, Green Star, and Energy Star).

Thus, the results show that sustainable solutions are not only within the range of large associations and owners of office buildings having the capability to achieve valuable global energy-efficient systems (e.g., HVAC).

Additionally, the results are applicable for programmers and designers of energy-efficient technological solutions, suggesting that they ought to consider including features offering some degree of manipulation to be able to raise the perception of control by office users.

Socio-Technical approach -This implies that companies planning to transform the environment, rather than merely imposing new technologies should take into consideration the employees, the machine-human fit, and the complexity of psychosocial aspects at work, to ensure well-being and performance at work. This might be accomplished through the active involvement of the employees in the process of organizational change.

Generally, the results of the systematic review suggest that the implementation of sustainable technologies and methods centered on decreasing thermal and lighting costs may not affect employees’ well-being and performance, or it may even improve them. This may result in increased productivity and, therefore, economic gains for businesses.

Unlike what could be expected, the results of this review suggest that comfort isn’t directly linked to increased energy requirements. In actuality, achieving comfort conditions isn’t solely an issue of increasing lighting levels or raising/lowering temperatures in response to the uncomfortable temperature in the environment. Rather, it is a question of discovering the optimal conditions and recognizing psychological precursors of sustainable behaviors.

The majority of the energy labels (MINERGIE, Passive house, LEED, BREEAM, DGNB) assert that energy efficiency goes hand in hand with greater comfort and better health, but well-organized evidence supporting these claims was restricted.

The evidence collected in this review is relevant to the decoupling issue. The findings show it is possible to maintain the well-being and productivity of office users while ensuring the energy efficiency of office buildings.

In this way, it is feasible to decouple energy expenses from productivity and well-being. Using energy-efficient solutions is a way for organizations to improve their results (e.g., employees’ performance and well-being) while decreasing their environmental footprints (e.g., using less energy for lighting).

Because of this, by decoupling human comfort from high energy consumption, we could obtain comfortable offices that are energy efficient (less CO2 emissions) and guarantee healthy and productive work.

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