To put some perspective to this, the GSA employs approximately 14,000 people and is the largest commercial-style real estate organization in America managing more than 335 million square of space in buildings which provides workspace for 1.1 million Federal employees! Without doubt this is occurring countless times in millions of other buildings all over the world. Sadly in many buildings satisfying the majority of the occupants is impossible now due to the buildings size, design, location, orientation, or HVAC system. A perceptive quote from The Thermal Comfort Zone was - "Owners are also all too familiar with costs of another kind -- productivity declines resulting from conditions that are less than just right. "Study after study shows that a building owner's greatest expense isn't equipment or operating costs, but losses in occupant productivity," says Simon Turner, president of Fairfax, VA-based Healthy Buildings International. The most frequent occupant complaint? "It's too hot or too cold," Turner says.
So what we are seeing is a very serious problem with a significant impact. An important message is that this widespread problem is the result of inefficient and poorly designed buildings and homes. In many, if not most of these buildings with unsatisfied workers/residents, there are complaints of their space being too hot while at the same time in the same buildings others are complaining of being too cold. It is the building manager's never ending nightmare, to please one person means added discomfort to another!
The not very well kept secret root problem to most of these issues is the windows. In the summer the workers in the offices with a lot of glass are too hot if the interior offices are comfortable, while in the winter conditions are reversed. Orientation of the offices adds to the complexities of obtaining occupant comfort. Windows are also responsible for issues that create added discomfort like convection loops and infiltration. The simple reality is that single pane or plate glass will losses or gain twenty times more heat per square foot that an adjoining wall, while a double glazed window losses or gains ten times more per square foot. So in effect, building managers are trying to satisfy the comfort requirement of occupants in well insulated works spaces and others in poorly insulated spaces.
A practical solution to this problem is also an energy efficient solution. As opposed to window replacement, window insulation is now an easy but very effective fix. Window insulators are installed inside the existing windows to improve insulation, reduce infiltration, reduce solar and radiant heat gain, restrict thermal heat gain or loss, and even enhance solar heat gain when it would be desirable. Whether you call it temperature disparity or creating a thermal comfort zone, many existing buildings cannot keep most of their occupants comfortable most of the time. Window insulators are a good solution that will make certain we have more productive workers and at the same time make the building more efficient. That is a change everyone can appreciate.
Article sources: The Thermal Comfort Zone by John Gregeron, Building Magazine 1/2010