How the Built Environment (Your Building) Impacts Productivity and Risk Management
September 25, 2015
Managing the built environment has evolved just like every other
aspect of our lives. We expect more than the minimums of code
compliance and a roof that doesn’t leak. Healthy, productive, secure
and sustainable — all are words that apply in today’s facility
This post is part two in a series discussing the impacts that better buildings can have on an organization. In the previous post we discussed the impact of reducing utility costs and energy use. In this post we’ll talk about two factors that impact every organization — productivity and risk management.
Impact 3: Productivity and the Built Environment
Productivity starts with what your organization is all about, what
you are “trying to get out the door.” There are reasons you operate in
buildings and your particular building environment will influence how
well your organization gets things done in terms of cost, quality and
capacity. This could be widgets in a factory, forms or documents
processed in an office, or students graduating from a school.
In each case, the environment in which the work occurs will impact the results.
Productivity is not simply a measure of activity, but of end-use output based on the business. Because of this, productivity is increasingly becoming a CEO-level metric. Demand for productivity from the top-down within organizations puts pressure on managers to do more with less and find new ways to make all aspects of the operation — including the building itself — contribute to the bottom line.
More advanced building analytics give business decision-makers the ability to make a business case for ensuring that your building goes beyond the minimum standards or “code” for a habitable building. In addition, integration between building and other business systems can create synergies with even greater impact.
For example, how acoustics in a classroom create echoes or underlying “white noise” can significantly impact students’ ability to hear and process information. English as a second language (ESL) students, those who might benefit the most from a positive learning environment, may hear as little as one in three words in a poor acoustical environment — with the obvious impact on student success.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is also a critical factor. The impact IAQ has on respiratory health will ultimately impact sick days, worker health and productivity. Inadequate fresh air in a building leads to increased errors, lower work productivity and higher levels of absenteeism.
Here are some of the ways improving the building environment can impact your business by improving productivity:
- Achieving optimal temperatures for workers showed a 150 percent increase in productivity and a better than 40 percent error reduction. (source)
- Opening or repairing window blinds to increase daylight correlates with a 15 percent increase in productivity. (source)
- Proper ventilation may increase productivity by as much as 11 percent. (source)
- Improved thermal comfort, reduction in indoor pollutants, and enhanced ventilation rates and effectiveness can increase productivity by 5 to 10 percent. (source)
- There can be a notable decrease in performance by 2 percent for each degree increase of space temperature between 77 degrees F and 89.4 degrees F. Optimal productivity performance was found to occur when the space temperature was 72 degrees F. (source)
- Low temperatures in work spaces also have a negative impact on productivity. Study findings show that “chilly workers not only make more errors, but cooler space temperature could increase the hourly labor cost by 10 percent.” (source)
There are many methods to measure productivity, but all methods
point to the same thing — the quality of the indoor environment, in
which we spend 80 percent of our waking hours, impacts how efficiently
a business operates. No one understands the importance of this
better than Trane Building Advantage.
Equally as important as fostering an environment that promotes productivity is proactively mitigating risk factors that could impact operations.
Impact 4: Risk Management - Operations
There is no way to remove all risk factors that could negatively
impact your organization’s operations. There are, however, ways to
plan for and mitigate those risks, whether physical or
Consider how facility design provides an environment specific to the occupants’ needs based on the building’s functions, operations and climate conditions. Ensuring that HVAC and other building energy systems are reliably operating and maintained supports operational continuity.
Sometimes it is as simple as having heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. Other times it is maintaining a temperature and humidity range that minimizes infection risks in an operating room or a clean room for a manufacturing process.
The first step in risk mitigation for operations is to understand what you need from your infrastructure to do the things that you do. In other words, what are the critical factors without which you would be unable to keep the doors open, keep the products flowing or otherwise fulfill your business or organizational mission?
For example, if a heating system isn't operating and your mission is to teach elementary school children in January in Minnesota, you aren't having school that day.
Once you have identified and understood those factors, Trane Building Advantage can employ tools to make your facility more reliable in those specific areas. Using advanced techniques we can help you determine exactly what you need to do to manage and mitigate risk for your specific operations.
Sometimes the changes you need to make are equipment related, such as ensuring that HVAC systems and controls are reliable and well suited to the building mission. Other times building managers might change the approach to maintenance, switching from a run-to-fail mindset to a proactive, scheduled maintenance program.
In either case, the end result is a mitigation of risk that inadequate performance of building systems will negatively impact your ability to achieve your mission.
How does your building stack up?
So what are the key factors that keep your organization running? Are
you mitigating risks to prevent catastrophic failure of key building
systems? Is your current building helping you achieve the best results
possible for your workers?
Find out how Trane Building Advantage can unlock hidden opportunities for increased productivity while helping you mitigate risks that could sideline your organization’s output.