Hybrid work has become a part of our routines, and in this context, every little gesture matters to enhance employees' experience when they come to the office. Increasing the sense of well-being is definitely a priority for property owners and real estate managers who are concerned about providing their clients with the best comfort conditions.
Thermal comfort and air quality depend on many interconnected factors, ensuring the full performance of HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Several factors can cause discomfort, such as a lack of maintenance and underperformance of equipment, manual adjustments to certain components, and non-optimized control sequences, among others.
When complaints of discomfort recur in certain spaces, it is necessary to investigate to find a sustainable solution. Here are 5 ways to improve occupant comfort.
1- Better Understand Discomfort Complaints
A temperature sensor may indicate a comfortable room temperature for most of us. However, feelings of discomfort can vary from one person to another and be influenced by several factors, including a draught that is too cold or too strong, a lack of air, or abnormally high or low humidity levels.
To understand the discomfort, the first step is to analyze the workspace and confirm if recent changes have been made that impact ambient temperature, humidity, and airflow. Adding supplementary heating devices or moving heat-generating equipment, such as a printer, may trigger the air conditioning, leading to a battle of hot and cold and discomfort. Your building automation systems specialist or operator can quickly identify and correct faulty settings directly through programming and a centralized graphical interface that integrates all systems.
If initial observations are inconclusive, it is advisable to add historical data to specific control points and create a dashboard to better understand the daily behaviour of HVAC systems.
2- Remove Supplementary Office Heaters
At first glance, using supplementary heating seems to be a simple and effective solution to optimize comfort. However, these devices can cause additional problems, often creating thermal imbalance from one room to another and potentially distorting the analysis of the workspace environment. Moreover, because they are not connected to the centralized control system, they can operate day and night, leading to unpleasant surprises on energy bills. Eliminating them without understanding the source of discomfort will not completely solve the problems, which will likely resurface quickly.
3- Optimize Control Sequences
If you have a centralized control system and occupant discomfort complaints are frequent, it is wise to analyze and review the operational sequences. These sequences should be updated based on the purpose of the spaces, occupancy rates, and usage schedules. It is also essential to optimize them when HVAC equipment changes. To assess the situation and find solutions, it is crucial to ask several questions, such as:
- Do the spaces serve the same functions as before?
- What renovations have been made over the years?
- What is the current occupancy schedule and the occupants needs?
- Do discomfort complaints only occur at specific times of the year?
When your premises change their purpose, certain floors are redesigned or occupancy levels vary, air conditioning and heating needs will also change. Whether it’s because a florist’s shop has become a café, closed offices have been turned into an open workspace or there’s an increase in the number of occupants, adjusting control sequences is essential to ensure occupant comfort system performance.
This adjustment may include:
- Automatic adjustments of setpoints based on external factors (outdoor temperatures, room or sector demands, sunlight)
- Adjustments to cooling, heating, and pressure controls, etc.
- Occupancy-based start-up optimization for equipment.
4- Implement Mechanical Changes
Buildings often have several interconnected HVAC systems that influence one another. Your smart building expert can analyze your entire building. At ACCS, we can advise you and actively participate in implementing modifications or mechanical changes that can solve recurring discomfort problems. Some examples include:
- Adding coils and baseboard heaters.
- Adding Variable Air Volume (VAV) boxes.
- Replacing or repositioning diffusers.
- Adding or repositioning sensors (temperature, humidity, CO2).
- Balancing airflow for optimization
5- Invest in Preventive Maintenance for Control and Mechanics
Investing in preventive maintenance is the simplest and most effective way to prevent any unpleasant surprises and quickly address discomfort problems with the right solution. You will be taken care of by a dedicated technician who understands the operation, behaviours, and development of your building. The main interventions include:
- Ensuring the proper operation of control systems, mechanical equipment, and electrical installations.
- Performing repairs or replacements of defective equipment.
- Preventing component failures.
- Addressing persistent discomfort issues.
- Correcting mechanical problems before they escalate or occur.
If you regularly receive complaints of discomfort and don’t know where to start.