ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - 73

COLUMN IEQ APPLICATIONS

Human Performance and
Productivity in Buildings
BY ANJA JAMROZIK, PH.D.; NICHOLAS CLEMENTS, PH.D., MEMBER ASHRAE

We work hard to optimize building performance-to
ensure that buildings can adequately maintain desired
indoor environmental conditions while minimizing the
costs of operation. Energy savings are simple to measure and to track. But what about human performance
in buildings? In office buildings, a rule-of-thumb is
that out of $100 spent, $90 will go to employee costs, $9
to rent and $1 to energy and utilities. This means a 15%
improvement in human performance is worth more
than 15% savings in energy costs, so building effects on
human performance should be taken seriously. In this
column we identify and address three barriers currently
preventing the industry from optimizing buildings for
human performance.
To start, the terms performance, cognitive performance and productivity have been used loosely and
sometimes interchangeably, leading to confusion and
often-contradictory claims about building or design features that purportedly improve occupants' performance
or productivity. To address this issue, we offer definitions to promote consistency and precision in use going
forward.
Second, because of a lack of regular contact with cognitive and behavioral sciences and inherent difficulties
in assessing performance, no standardized ways of measuring performance and productivity exist within the
building sciences. Below we outline measures appropriate for different building types and populations and
offer suggestions for standardizing and linking together
human performance measures.
Third, to optimize buildings for human performance,
where is the best place to start? We offer a high-level
summary on the effects of the indoor environment on
performance to serve as a starting point for application.

Types of Human Performance
The terms performance, cognitive performance and
productivity have sometimes been used interchangeably, leading to confusion. We define performance
as the degree of success people have at accomplishing
intended tasks. This is an umbrella term, encompassing people's performance on experimental tasks, work
tasks, schoolwork and everyday household tasks.
The way performance is measured differs based on
the population of interest and the tasks associated with
a given building type. For children in schools, performance is success in learning and applying new concepts
and skills. School performance can be measured using
standardized test scores,1 an approach that is more
common in large studies across varied buildings and
regions. Another approach is to use schoolwork tasks,
such as reading comprehension or math tasks,2 developed in collaboration with educators and administered
in classrooms, which provide a detailed measure of
learning.
For older adults in residential settings, performance is
continued success at independently performing everyday tasks. This can be measured by assessing adults'
abilities to prepare meals, manage finances and take
medications.3
For workers in offices and other workplaces, performance is success at accomplishing work tasks. A related
term is productivity, which is defined as the amount of
work produced per unit time. Productivity can only be
objectively measured if the "amount of work" and "time"
can be quantified, which is much easier in offices where
workers have standardized tasks, such as in call centers, where the average time spent per phone call has
been used as an objective measure.4 Because modern

Anja Jamrozik, Ph.D., is a behavioral scientist and consultant helping companies improve indoor environments for occupants. Nicholas Clements, Ph.D., is a research engineer and
consultant with the Well Living Lab.
J U N E 2 0 19

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ASHRAE Journal - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASHRAE Journal - June 2019

Contents
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - Intro
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - Cover1
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - Cover2
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - 1
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - Contents
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - 3
ASHRAE Journal - June 2019 - 4
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