• Building Automation Systems
  • Lighting Technologies

Beyond HVAC for Occupant Comfort and Productivity

Krystal Maxwell
Dec 19, 2018

Smart Building 3

A growing trend in the commercial buildings market is a focus on occupant health, comfort, and productivity. This trend is present in new projects, product launches, and discussions of drivers in the industry. One of the most recent announcements around occupant comfort was by building incumbent, Schneider Electric. The company announced updates to its EcoStruxure Building solutions, launching in 2019, with one offering, EcoStruxure Workplace Advisor, which focuses specifically on improving occupant engagement and well-being. Solutions can focus on increasing energy and operational efficiency while simultaneously promoting an improved occupant experience.

An Initial Focus on HVAC

The first thought of occupant comfort is often tied with temperature comfort and is thus linked with the HVAC system. Comfy, a workplace employee app designed to give employees more control over their environment (the core product of Building Robotics, Inc.), started with an offering that allowed users to indicate temperature comfort level throughout the building. Recently acquired by another building incumbent, Siemens Building Technologies, Comfy has since expanded to include other offerings to enhance the occupant experience in commercial buildings, one of which is lighting. Comfy’s expansion incorporates changing light levels in open space or meeting rooms as well as adjusting the lighting schedule when working outside of a regular building schedule.

Shining a Light on Occupant Comfort

Lighting is a key component to an occupant’s health and well-being within commercial buildings. The ability to have the correct light level and color temperature for a given task can help increase productivity and the comfort and enjoyment of the building occupants. This focus on improved well-being, productivity, and vision from a lighting standpoint is characterized as human-centric lighting. Similar to HVAC and building automation, key players within the lighting industry have taken an interest in this promotion of occupant health and productivity through lighting. Lighting incumbents, such as OSRAM and Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), have created offerings to focus specifically on improving productivity, learning, and the health and well-being of building occupants.

Even with large building and lighting vendors providing these solutions, the building owners, managers, and occupants need to understand the benefits to justify the additional costs. The difficulty in both quantifying and standardizing the measurement of human-centric lighting is still a barrier to adoption, as discussed in Navigant Research's Quantifying and Standardizing the Measurement of Human-Centric Lighting report. Companies from startups, building incumbents, and technology firms focusing on the driving adoption of occupant health, comfort, and productivity solutions to meet customer interest is a start. However, many building owners and managers interested in these solutions are early adopters and more widespread adoption will not be possible without continued education.