Nothing feels better than a blast of cool air on a hot summer day, but facilities leaders know that air conditioning demands a lot of energy and directly contributes to higher utility bills. Instead, to accommodate employees’ comfort levels and reduce energy costs, you may want to consider setting the thermostat a few degrees higher. There are a number of benefits beyond cost containment. Here are three reasons to consider turning up office temperatures during the hot summer months.
1. Save energy and reduce carbon footprint
Increasing summer office temperatures by even a few degrees can yield big energy savings. The California Energy Commission estimates that each degree a thermostat goes above 72 degrees Fahrenheit can reduce energy consumption between 1%-3%. One scholar went as far as to estimate that raising a building’s temperature from 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit can yield as much as 20 to 30% savings. This can lead to big reductions in energy costs for your institution, freeing up dollars to invest in other priorities.
One of the most successful instances of energy savings through thermostat adjustment comes from Japan. In 2005, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment launched its Cool Biz initiative in an effort to conserve energy and combat climate change. During summer months, government buildings are required set their thermostats to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and loosen their dress codes so that men are not required to wear suits.
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The highly successful program reduced Japan’s CO2 emissions by 7.92 million tons between 2005 and 2010. The program continues today, and many businesses outside of the government chose to participate.
2. Increase employee productivity
Some studies show that when workers are cold, they are less productive. A 2004 study at Cornell University found that a chilly office decreases work productivity and increases the number of typing errors employees make.
Of course, it’s possible to tip the scales too far; an office that’s too warm will decrease productivity as well. However, making the office warmer can help ensure workers do not lose productivity due to discomfort.
It’s important to note that an adjustment in office temperatures may require some changes to office dress codes to ensure comfort; no one wants to wear a suit in a warm office. However, most employees will welcome the opportunity to wear more relaxed summer attire.
3. Remedy unintentional gender bias in your office
Third, and perhaps surprisingly, an upward thermostat adjustment corrects a longstanding gender bias found in most offices. Developed in the 1960s, the standard model for ideal office temperatures is based on men’s comfort levels. These office temperature norms persist, despite a greater number of women in the workforce. Since women generally have slower metabolic rates than men, they typically prefer a slightly warmer environment than their male counterparts. With the current standard cooler office temperatures, many women rely on cardigans, blankets, and even space heaters to keep warm at work.
Warmer office temperatures accommodate the preferences of many female employees and support your institution’s sustainability goals. Meanwhile, in the winter months when heating drives costs, cooler temperatures closer to the average male comfort level will minimize energy use.
How can you reduce your institution's underutilized space?
Office space is growing faster than any other space on campus. Determined to bolster efficiency and accommodate other space needs, facilities leaders are focused on strategies to transport space where it's truly needed. Discover how you can implement practices, such as enforceable no-office protocols and voluntary office withdrawal, to reallocate space. Download the study.
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