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Tenant Temperature Tolerance

November, 17 2009 at 02:59 PM  account icon posted by Brooke McMurchy   image 1 comment »


I'm looking for articles or studies that address building tenants' tolerance levels for heating and cooling. I know one of the largest complaints in an office building has to do with temperatures levels, and I've heard that the temperature that yields the least complaints is 21 degrees C. Does anyone know of resources that back this? Or that discuss other issues around tenant temperature tolerance? (i.e. females are generally colder than males...)

Brooke McMurchy
BC Government
Canada

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1 Max Deubleaccount icon View Profile Posted on May, 12 2010 at 03:50 AM

Dear Brooke,

there is actually a litany of information on this topic if you know where to search. If you simply type in thermal comfort, office buildings, occupants, temperature, tolerance, expectation, productivity, complaints (any of these keywords will give you a lot of articles and studies that deal with the tolerance levels of building tenants. I have hundreds of articles that relate to this subject as well so if you find any that you would like to read but can't access them I would be happy to provide them for you.

I would like to add a comment on your question regarding 21 degrees as the temperature that yields the least complaints. Many studies have tried to define which temperature is optimum for worker productivity. Considering that companies spend over 80% of their annual budget on worker salaries, it's not surprising they want to set a temperature that will earn them money from hard working employees.

In 1997, some researchers conducted experiments to quantify this 'productive' temperature. Seppanen, Fisk and Rosenfeld wrote many articles detailing that they found that worker productivity was best at 21 degrees. However, there is a rift in the field (which I am a part of at the moment studying my PhD in energy conservation in the built environment) that disagrees with these results. The ultimate question that arises from these debates is how do you measure productivity. These studies measured call centre worker output by measuring the time it took to conduct a call to a customer. Naturally they assumed that quicker calls meant more productive staff. But, within a call centre environment, quick calls could easily mean that the person on the other line has just hung up.

Also, I want to point out that these studies were often done in air-conditioned buildings which maintain the internal temperature around 22-23 degrees. I would think within a building with no central air-conditioning, with higher internal temperatures, worker productivity would be optimum at a much higher temperature, as they would be more tolerant of the thermal variations that occur in this buildings.

I hope this was of some help for you. Let me know if you would like me to sent you some articles and/or papers.

Max Deuble
PhD Student
Macquarie University
Australia