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Physical comfort is critical to work effectiveness, satisfaction, and physical and psychological well-being. During the facility design and development process, to ensure comfortable environments, building projects must have a comprehensive, integrated perspective that seeks to:
- Provide a superior acoustic environment
- Maintain optimal thermal comfort
- Create a high quality visual environment
- Provide furniture and equipment that will enhance worker comfort and performance
- Provide user controls.
Implementing holistic design principles will also help achieve these objectives.
Uncomfortable conditions in buildings and spaces-too hot, too cold, too noisy, too dark, too light, too much glare-restrict the ability of workers to function to full capacity and can lead to lowered job satisfaction and increases in illness symptoms.
Provide a Superior Acoustic Environment
- Reduce sound reverberation time inside the workplace by specifying sound absorbing materials and by configuring spaces to dampen rather than magnify sound reverberation.
- Provide sound masking if necessary.
- Specify acoustical ceilings or ceiling tiles with a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0.75.
- Limit transmission of noise from outside the workplace by designing high sound transmission class (STC) walls between work areas and high noise areas inside and outside the building.
- Minimize background noise from the building's HVAC system and other equipment.
- Provide opportunities for privacy and concentration when needed in open plan offices.
- Enclose or separate group activity spaces from work areas where concentration is important.
Provide Quality Thermal and Ventilation Comfort
- At a minimum, comply with American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 55 Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.
- Incorporate natural ventilation, if appropriate to the location, and consider adjusting the requirements of ASHRAE Standard 55 to account for the impact.
- Analyze room configurations and HVAC distribution layouts to ensure all parts of a room are receiving adequate ventilation, especially spaces where teams or groups meet. Consider providing individual environmental controls in these rooms.
- Analyze placement, configuration, and type of windows and skylights and provide adequate, controllable shading to avoid "hot spots" caused by direct sunlight.
- Consider providing a temperature and humidity monitoring system to ensure optimal thermal comfort performance.
- Evaluate the use of access floors with displacement ventilation for flexibility, personal comfort control, and energy savings.
- Provide individual air and temperature controls at each workstation.
- Utilize CO2 sensors to assess the air quality of spaces to adjust ventilation.
Create a High Quality Visual Environment (Including Lighting, Daylighting, and Visual Interest)
- Provide as much natural daylight as possible for occupants while avoiding excessive heat loss, heat gain, and glare.
- Provide views and access to the outdoor environment for all occupants.
- Provide connections to indoor and outdoor nature where possible.
- Integrate natural and electric lighting strategies, and provide controls that optimize daylighting/electric lighting interaction. Light vertical surfaces/walls to increase the perceived brightness of the space.
- Balance the quantity and quality of light in all work areas and design for "uniformity with flexibility." Consider individually controlled task lighting for each workstation that properly illuminates the task.
- Control or eliminate glare from ceiling lighting and windows.
- Provide individual control of task lighting and, where possible, adjustment of ceiling light using advanced lighting systems technologies.
- Assure a visually appealing environment through the appropriate and well-balanced use of scale, colors, textures, patterns, artwork, and plants.
- Avoid both uniformity and visual chaos.
- See also WBDG Psychosocial Value of Space.
Provide Furniture and Equipment that Will Enhance Worker Comfort and Performance
- Adapt furnishings to the work to be done, not the other way around.
- Specify furnishings that support good posture, body mechanics, and work techniques for the tasks to be accomplished (e.g. ergonomically designed chairs and keyboards).
- Provide workstations that allow users to adjust seating, computer equipment placement, light levels, work surface heights, workspace layout, and ventilation.
- Install glass panels in workstation walls to provide access to daylight and views.
- Design furniture configurations that allow workers variable views for visual relief.
- For telecommuting workers, the sponsoring organization should assure that the home office is comfortable, ergonomic, and has the necessary technological tools.
Provide User Controls
- Divide the building and/or spaces up into smaller zones with local zone terminal units to allow each zone to react individually to local conditions or different user preferences for airflow or temperature.
- Incorporate lighting controls to achieve a high quality energy efficient lighting system, while also allowing for individual lighting preferences or needs.
Relevant Codes and Standards
- ASHRAE Standard 55 Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy
Provide a Superior Acoustic Environment
- Acoustical Society of America
- American Speech-Hearing-Language Association
- Greening Federal Facilities: An Energy, Environmental, and Economic Resource Guide for Federal Facility Managers and Designers (p. 123)
- PBS-P100 Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service (Chapter 3.13)
- Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA
- National Council of Acoustical Consultants
- National Research Council of Canada
- NIH Design Policy and Guidelines: 1996–2000
- TM 5-803-2/NAVFAC P-970/AFM 19-10 Environmental Protection Planning in the Noise Environment
- UFC 3-120-10 Interior Design
- UFC 3-450-01 Noise and Vibration Control
Maintain Optimal Thermal Comfort
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
- Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics, Carnegie Mellon University
- Center for the Built Environment, University of California-Berkeley
Create a High Quality Visual Environment
- The DesignLights Consortium™
- ENERGY STAR®—EPA
- Greening Federal Facilities: An Energy, Environmental, and Economic Resource Guide for Federal Facility Managers (p.37, p.121)
- Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Light Right Consortium, Battelle/Pacific Northwest Laboratory
- UFC 3-530-01 Design: Interior and Exterior Lighting and Controls