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System Impacts

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Human Behavior on System System Impact on Humans

Occupant Behavior on Indoor Environmental Quality

Occupant buy-in and cooperation is essential to maintaining indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and the health, financial, and human impacts associated with it . Goals can only be identified and achieved if executed hand-in-hand with the occupants.

IEQ occupant surveys are a cost effective and valuable resource for identifying areas of discomfort or dissatisfaction to address during renovation projects and to help assist the operations and maintenance team in identifying opportunities for improvement. Occupant surveys should be unbiased and encompass all components of indoor environmental quality, including air quality, thermal and lighting comfort, and acoustical privacy. The occupants’ perspective on comfort can help identify lingering issues such as excessive noise or space cleanliness. Responses to these surveys should be the focus of any renovation project, regardless if its primary goal is IEQ related, and could save wasted energy from over-lit or over-conditioned spaces. Surveys and feedback cycles should occur periodically over the life cycle of the facility to ensure the desired quality is upheld. Explore Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment Occupant Surveyopens in new window.

Occupant comfort can be optimized by providing high levels of individual or group controllability with regard to ambient air, lighting, and sound. Thermal conditions, including air temperature, humidity, and speed, should be designed to allow for personalized adjustments through integration of individual thermostat controls, localized diffusers, or operable windows. Similarly, implementing task lighting strategies at workstations creates flexibility for occupants to alter their illuminated environment. Acoustic controllability can be difficult as the distractions, such as coworker conversations, are often out of the hands of the occupant. However, providing mobility (for example laptop computers or designated "quiet areas" like in a library) and separate acoustic zones allow occupants to seek out ambient conditions beneficial to their current task.

The way occupants interact with and utilize the building space has a direct effect on overall IEQ as many times it is humans that introduce harmful airborne particulates or distracting acoustics. Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is a known carcinogen in humans, therefore smoking should be prohibited within the building and near any doors, windows, or air intake vents. Implementing an entryway mat or grate systems by exterior doors can further help remove dust that would otherwise be spread throughout the space simply by occupants walking around.

Consider creating an open acoustic policy outlining areas where team and spontaneous discussions are encourages and areas where privacy should be respected. Providing acoustical zoning in the space with corresponding signage reminding occupants of these courtesy policies and procedures will assist in limiting distractions arising from occupant behavior.

Best Practices and Strategies

Provide placards near exterior entrances reminding visitors of the ETS smoking policy. Train workplace specialists, maintenance staff, and occupants on the value of maintaining healthy IAQ. Consider establishing IEQ dedicated avenues for occupants to voice complaints or concerns, and provide periodic occupant surveys.
Create an office policy centered on acoustical best practices to limit distractions and create public awareness. Provide acoustical zones for different work environments with signage to remind occupants of “quiet” areas. Institute a green cleaning plan that emphasizes the use of an entryway dirt capture system.
Integrate task lighting and thermal controls to leverage human behavior to promote IEQ.