Individual control over lighting and temperature boosts productivity and engagement, find JLL and Purdue U.

by Brianna Crandall — November 13, 2017 — When it comes to workplace comfort, researchers at Purdue University are proving the theory that one size doesn’t fit all — and control makes a difference. New research from Purdue University’s Center for High Performance Buildings (CHPB), sponsored by global professional and real estate services firm JLL, shows having individual control of your workspace, such as lighting and temperature, improves overall workplace productivity and engagement.

Leo O’Loughlin, senior director, JLL Energy and Sustainability Services, explained:

We’re looking for new data-driven insights and tools to help clients make informed, strategic business decisions about their facilities. Studies like this create real-world scenarios and data that we can bring to clients to help them create better workplaces for their employees.

In a two-year study, Purdue and JLL are exploring the effect of customizable indoor environmental conditions on building energy consumption and employee productivity and satisfaction. The goal is to use data related to individual workplace preferences to create smart building technologies.

The power of the “easy way”

To gather data, researchers installed workplace sensors to measure temperature, light levels and occupant actions as participants engaged in a regular eight-hour workday. One group of workers used customizable desktop computer controls, designed by the Purdue researchers, for individual control of light and temperature. Separately, another group worked in an office with standard wall-mounted thermostat and lighting controls.

The researchers found that the workers who could easily adjust room lighting and temperature from their computers were more engaged than those using the wall-mounted controls. They used less building energy by relying more on daylight than on artificial lighting. With light and temperature just right, these participants also reported higher levels of productivity and performed better in cognitive tests than the control group.

Panagiota Karava, an associate professor in Civil Engineering and a CHPB researcher, stated:

We are developing algorithms that can learn occupant preferences accurately and efficiently. By giving people the choice to use more daylight and feel more connected to the outdoor environment, you can optimize productivity and use less energy.

In its first year, the research team has created a system for collecting relevant data and an algorithm that can accurately create individualized employee profiles. In the second year, the researchers will implement prototype algorithm-based software in actual office environments.

One of 13 JLL-CHPB research projects, the controllable environment study is collecting data from more than 200 participants in private and open-plan offices in an on-campus living laboratory. Each private office has dimmable electric lights, motorized shades and a variable air volume system.

For more information on the JLL-CHPB study on individual control of workspace comfort systems, see the JLL Blog.