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Tackling overheating issues in workspaces

Author : Adam Ralph, GRITIT landscape director

15 June 2016

Soaring summer temperatures can cause office environments to become stifling workspaces. Even with expensive air conditioning technology and relaxed dress codes, busy offices become uncomfortable places to spend prolonged amounts of time, and this often leads to less productive, less motivated staff.

There are a number of solutions that facilities managers can explore to address the issue.

However, two particularly innovative approaches are to consider bringing nature into the office, with biophilic design and architecture, or to take the office outdoors.

Biophilic design is about designing buildings that improve physical and mental wellbeing, through a connection with nature.

For the office environment, this means bringing nature into the building in a way that is in keeping and unforced.

Potted plants and green walls or living walls are becoming popular indoors, and green roofs and walls on the exterior. Indoor plants have been shown to be beneficial to a building’s health.

They improve air quality by mitigating pollution levels; improve energy efficiency by reducing temperature fluctuations; and reduce sick building syndrome.

They also improve comfort levels in the office by reducing heat through natural cooling processes, and reducing noise as plant facades can block high and low frequency sounds, just as they do along motorways and train lines.

Finally, plants can have a positive effect on staff and clients. They improve wellbeing, reduce stress levels and increase motivation, and enhance reputation by demonstrating an awareness of environmental issues and staff wellness.

Alternatively, instead of bringing nature into the office, the office can be brought outside to nature. With the explosion of mobile technology in the workplace, employees are no longer tied to their desks and are free to explore a range of work environments.

Working outdoors comes with a range of benefits including:
•reducing levels of stress
•reducing the amount of time spent sitting on chairs
•improving cognitive function
•increasing vitamin D intake

However, managers need to be as aware of the external working environment as they do the internal.

A quality grounds maintenance plan can be implemented to ensure a safe and productive environment is cultivated.

Not only should the plan look at creating work specific areas, through tree planting to create shade for example, but it will also need to ensure that the external areas are maintained to a high standard, to guarantee comfortable as well as safe working.

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