The modern workplace has to work harder than ever before. It must reflect corporate values, express something of the organisation’s brand, allow people to work to the best of their ability as well as look after their wellbeing, keep touch with the pace of changing technology, minimise downtime, meet the demands of an ever changing legislative environment and keep costs down. In short, it is an essential tool in meeting key organisational objectives.
It is estimated that even in a typical office each person and their computer equipment will generate some 1500W of energy per hour, the equivalent of a fan heater. The problem is significantly more acute in dealer rooms where people typically use multiple flat screens in large open plan areas with occupancy densities of above 7 sq m per person and where work can carry on around the clock to meet deadlines and to take full advantage of the globalised financial markets.
The added challenge nowadays of how to balance sustainable policies with the need to continue to address issues such as air quality, employee comfort, acceptable workplace temperature standards and changing seasonal usage patterns is a constant challenge faced by government, managers and manufacturers.
Although there have been several calls for a maximum workplace temperature standard to be officially introduced, there is at present no legal standard in Britain. However, according to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, although it is not an actual statutory limit, the upper allowable temperature in workplaces during working hours should be ‘reasonable’. In addition, guidelines from the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), state that the maximum internal temperature of a workplace should not exceed 25°C for more than 5% of the period that the building is occupied, and shouldn’t rise above 28°C for more than 1% of the time.
However, while around a half of workplaces now feature air conditioning (compared to just 10% in 1994), many are still not adequately equipped to provide relief on the hottest days in the summer, which have reached 32°C in recent years.
In addition, the thermal output of hardware can easily exceed the capabilities of a building’s HVAC systems or even produce localised hotspots that are uncomfortable to work in and potentially harmful to people and equipment alike. In addition, financial institutions are eager to provide workplaces that are as efficient as possible in order to meet their own environmental targets as well as keeping costs to an absolute minimum. These objectives frequently go hand-in-hand and companies are invariably keen to take advantage of any opportunities.
Traditional air conditioning and ventilation systems have an important role to play, but intelligent workstations are now available that work in conjunction with the building’s infrastructure to maintain an efficient, effective and productive working environment. In doing so, they can deal with the three main issues associated with heat and air quality in high performance working environments.
In a typical office, air conditioning can account for up to 30% of annual electricity consumption – with as big an impact on an organisation’s finances as on the environment. The increasing need to cool the workplace doesn’t sit well with the current drive for less emissions and low energy usage in the workplace, especially in light of the growing emphasis on new legislation such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment.
It has been calculated that HVAC systems account for up to 40% of all non-transport energy use in the UK, which is why there is continuing pressure for managers and installers to incorporate sustainable, energy conserving measures wherever possible. In recent years, the UK has seen a shift in energy consumption patterns from a winter peak to a summer peak, indicating that people are increasingly more concerned about being too hot in the workplace than too cold. The risks to workers in conditions that are too hot include dehydration, fatigue, increased heartbeat, dizziness, fainting and cramp due to loss of water and salt.
Hot, dry air can increase the risk of eye and throat infections, and breathing problems such as asthma and rhinitis. Additional risks can be related to increased stress levels. Fatigue can also lead to tiredness or lack of concentration, which, apart from having an adverse effect on individual performance, could result in an increased risk of accidents, lowered concentration and motivation and so a downturn in productivity.
It’s not just people that are adversely affected by downtime caused by the wrong temperature. When a computer becomes too hot, it is possible to destroy and shorten the lifespan of the hardware inside it, leading to damage and potential data loss. A hot computer always runs slower than a cooler computer.
This kind of downtime can be catastrophic for many firms so it is vitally important it is kept to an absolute minimum or, ideally, be eliminated altogether. These are complex and interrelated issues, which is why the whole question of cooling dealer desks has often been seen as a potentially intransigent problem for the people who design and manage dealer rooms.
Address the issue
One company that has recently had to address this challenge is financial services giant Nomura, which has been developing rapidly since the economic crash of 2008. It now employs some 26,000 people worldwide. Nomura has been expanding its market share in Europe over the past few years and the company has recently consolidated its UK operations at 1 Angel Lane in the City of London, where it has specified nearly 2,000 positions.
One of the most important issues for Nomura to address as part of the move was its energy consumption. The energy hungry nature of the work done by financial institutions can be gauged by the fact that Nomura had targeted a 40% cut in its electricity bill, saving the firm some £2m a year. This involved a complete upgrade of its server network and intelligent changes to the specification of its IT infrastructure.
The physical environment has a role to play too. The specified solution for the dealer desks is 08 air from DAS Business Furniture which works by drawing heated air from around the workstation through a fan coil, which is then passed over a water heat exchanger before being circulated back into the office at slightly below room temperature.
This newly cooled air is then passed over the rear of the desks to further help with cooling and circulation. It does this without any draughts, further enhancing occupant comfort. The overall footprint for a back to back position is increased by only 150mm, meaning existing environments can usually be upgraded with few, if any, changes to the original space plan. As well as being space efficient, this is also important when trying to maintain the performance characteristics of the building and also in terms of the way people relate to each other as part of their working teams.
The key to the impl
ementation of the project was the role of the facilities management team working under Managing Director of Facilities Tony Bartle. Tony’s role was to address the objectives of each of the stakeholders in the building to ensure a solution that was optimal for each of them. An interdisciplinary approach that included Normura’s HR, IT and buildings services teams along with his own ensured the success of the project.
The Nomura solution is an interesting one in the way that it comprehensively resolves the potential conflicts between various business objectives. It’s a perfect example of how facilities management best practice can address complex issues that take into account the building, the people who occupy it and the technology they use.