IES Consulting carried out detailed dynamic thermal modelling to help Perth & Kinross Council create a safer return to the workplace strategy for its 2 High Street open plan office in Perth.
As the numbers of COVID-19 cases are brought under control and economies begin to stabilise, a key focus for countries over the coming months will be how their citizens can return to their workplace in a safe and responsible manner. As a result of the pandemic, CIBSE advice is to provide additional fresh air ventilation to dilute the space and reduce the risk of infection.
In Scotland, Perth & Kinross Council have turned to IES Consulting to help them with a study of its open plan office building in Perth, to look at ways they can make it a safer working environment. Like most organisations homeworking has become the new norm and the council was compelled to identify strategies they would need to put in place in the future to bring their office workers back as safely as possible and also how these strategies might affect comfort conditions.
The study used Dynamic Thermal modelling to analyse airflow and air change rates (under representative external conditions) in the space. The consultants ran a number of simulations, taking into account wind direction, wind speed, season and occupancy levels to provide the council with a number of possible natural ventilation strategies for making its workplace safer. This output was provided to the council as an easy to use selection tool enabling the office/facilities manager to implement the best window opening strategy based on a daily forecast.
For the study, Perth & Kinross Council were keen to focus on ‘Health over Comfort’. They realised the importance of increasing ventilation to make the office a safe environment, however it was important for them to understand limitations against workplace comfort regulations, especially during winter months. If temperatures dipped too low, local heaters, adjustments to seating areas and occupancy may be needed. The worst-case scenario would be to close the office and return to remote working for these periods of time.
The study was intended to ensure the safest possible space and occupancy level for employees to return to an office environment. The model outputs will provide reassurance to employees that with appropriate measures the office can be a safer place.
The study proved that with precautionary measures in place the Council could achieve 25% occupancy level in the North office, and potentially more.
“We are highly impressed with the study and the excellent level of detail that IES Consulting were able to provide. The consultants went above and beyond what was asked of them – providing us with a tool that we can populate to use the correct ventilation strategy on any given day and highlighting comfort issues dependant on season. It provides us with evidence for making decisions on our buildings across our entire portfolio.
Our Engineering team have been tasked with ensuring good ventilation in other buildings such as schools in order to make them safe working environments. We found the dynamic thermal modelling particularly useful as we could use the information from this study and apply the same principles.
We see this as a really important piece of work in terms of ensuring people’s safety and we hope by sharing the details of the study with other councils across the country it can help others moving forward to make spaces safer for all. The analysis has opened our eyes to a lot of things that we may not have necessarily thought of. We see this as a great opportunity to improve things going forward.”
Chris Anton, Lead Energy Officer, Perth & Kinross Council
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