Creating the Productive Workplace

By Derek Clements-Croome | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

Productivity in buildings: the 'killer' variables

Adrian LeamanandBill Bordass

Introduction

This chapter deals with the somewhat vexing question of human productivity in the workplace. It sets out to answer: 'What features of workplaces under the control of designers and managers significantly influence human productivity?'. The main theme is how individual occupants are affected. We are seeking building or organisational features which most readily improve or hinder human productivity. The findings can then be used in the briefmaking, design and management processes.

Observations are mainly based on surveys carried out since 1985 in the UK by Building Use Studies and William Bordass Associates, together with new and spin-off projects from the Building Research Establishment and UK Department of Environment among others. Some of this work has been published before, but the bulk of data collected remains to be analysed and reported on in greater detail.

There is also a substantial wider literature, much of it from the US, reviewed by Lorsch and Abdou (1994a, 1994b, 1994c) and Oseland (1996). Quite a lot is known about how well people respond to different conditions of temperature, humidity, lighting, ventilation and noise, for example, and regulations for building design are based on many of the findings (although with a considerable time lag).

Most of these studies come from military, industrial and commercial sources. Their findings can be contradictory (although there is a reasonable consensus on key points) and sometimes they can be hard to make sense of when productivity is linked to the indoor environment. For instance, Pepler and Warner (1968) found that young people worked best (and were thus more productive) for short periods when they were uncomfortably cold. Periods of relatively uncomfortable arousal can thus be important. It is unlikely that people will continue to perform well in conditions of prolonged discomfort. De Dear et al. (1993) showed that large numbers of office staff considered their working environments to be thermally unacceptable despite measured conditions falling within industry-standard

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