Four ways of creating a friendly office space

Four ways of creating a friendly office space

Humans as a species are evolutionarily adapted to living outdoors and having direct contact with nature. However, we spend 90% of our time indoors. Making the indoor conditions closer to our optimum conditions may contribute to our health, productivity and wellbeing. Upon analysis of market reports and scientific papers, we have described 4 parameters and measures aimed at creating a comfortable, healthy space.

Biophilia

Biophilia is the innate sense of a connection with nature developed in the course of evolution. Thus, biophilia is an inseparable part of human nature, and its use in offices or homes can considerably improve our comfort and wellbeing. Abundance of fresh air, being able to see vegetation and human activity outside the building or natural elements and plants indoors help to bring the conditions in the building closer to the conditions to which we are evolutionarily predisposed and in which we feel best. The positive effect of such solutions on health and comfort includes, among others, the possibility of changing visual focus by looking outside and reducing the feeling of fatigue caused by, for instance, constant looking on the computer screen. Direct contact with vegetation also reduces the stress level and improves cognitive abilities. The studies show that in call center buildings with a direct view onto nature outside the building, the employees were able to process the calls up 12% faster.

Thermal comfort

Thermal comfort in the building depends on temperature, humidity, air velocity and temperature of the surface of space dividing elements. Depending on different combinations of these factors and physical activity and clothing, in office buildings, the optimum temperature is 20–24°C. Persons staying in premises that provide thermal comfort have a lower heart rate, calmer breathing and increased oxygen saturation. At the same time, the fact that these parameters can be individually adjusted to our preferences by, for instance, opening the windows gives the sense of control over our environment, improving our wellbeing. The studies show that office work efficiency drops to 6% if the temperature in the premises is higher than our preferred temperature. Therefore, design solutions ensuring thermal comfort are critical to our health and wellbeing.

Air quality

The amount of fresh air in the building directly contributes to the improvement of air quality by removing carbon dioxide and pollutants emitted during daily office work, e.g.: chemicals, printer toners or volatile organic compounds from paint or furniture. Studies on a sample of over 100 offices in the USA show that doubling the amount of air from 40 to 80 m3/h per person reduced the frequency of sick leave among the employees by more than 35%**. According to the authors of the study, this translates into a loss of up to PLN 2500 annually per employee due to absence from work. In a company that employs several hundred people, the profits from maintaining a suitable quality and volume of air in the office may, therefore, be tremendous. However, the selected volume of air has to enable the maintenance of thermal comfort and energy efficiency.

Noise

Everyone that has ever worked in an office is familiar with the situation where it is difficult to focus due to loud phone calls or printer noise. This is because our organism functions best at a specific level of environmental noise, which, for offices, is specified as 35–45 dB. Using sound-absorbing or sound-reflecting materials, dividing the office space into separate areas and ensuring an environmental noise level that is neither too low nor too high are methods that can reduce the stress level related to constant noise to such a significant extent that productivity in spaces that ensure acoustic comfort will rise by over 25%***.

The combination of the 4 measures described above has a fundamental effect on the creation of a friendly office space. However, these measures require the expertise and involvement of specialists at an early stage of the design process. If you would like to know more about the design of friendly office spaces, feel free to contact us.
* http://h-m-g.com/projects/daylighting/summaries%20on%20daylighting.htm
**http://e-co.uk.com/Recirc-Milton2000.pdf
***http://www.workplaceunlimited.com/Psychology%20of%20Productivity.pdf

 

Jerzy Wójcik

The Green360° blog has been created to provide educational content and aid the development of the industry of certified sustainable construction. Green360° is the publishing part of JW+A.

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