If an analysis of 500 million Tweets is anything to go by, most of us are happiest each weekday at 8am and our mood steadily declines until we’re heading for home in the afternoon. That was a key finding of a recent study published in Science which also concluded that people feel generally more positive heading into summer and we’re happier on weekends after a sleep in…
If all that makes sense, it begs the question: should office building operators use ‘complaints’ as a basis for monitoring occupant satisfaction with buildings and, if so, should an adjustment be made for the deterioration most of us experience in our mood throughout the day?
The Twitter study (mood varies with work, sleep and daylength), which incidentally trawled through a tried-and-tested list of “positive” and “negative” words contained in messages from 2.4 million people in 84 countries sent between February 2008 and January 2010, prompted us to look more closely at a database owned by Investa Property Group (sponsors of the Investa Sustainability Institute and Green Buildings Alive) containing 59,494 requests from occupants of buildings logged between July 2008 and yesterday.
We decided to look only at air conditioning requests and specifically things that might be considered an irritation (legitimate or otherwise), i.e. “blowing too much”, “not enough airflow”, “too hot”, “too cold”. (I don’t know about you, but things like that tend to irritate me a whole lot more when I’m not in a good mood…) The database contains 8,668 such requests and their distribution is as follows:
Contrast that pattern with the trends observed by Scott Golder and Michael Macy in their study below.
Obviously this blog doesn’t stand up to the same level of rigour as Golder and Macy’s work, but based on their results it seems that your would expect most office building occupants to most irritated by the air conditioning at 3pm in the afternoon, whereas our data shows something different: complaints tend to peak late morning when the positive vibes are still quite high and the negative vibes are low.
If you add a delay effect of, say, one hour from when people start feeling uncomfortable to when they actually register a complaint, the results are even harder to reconcile. Tweets often seem to shoot from the hip while in contrast it takes a while to feel irritated, then effort to speak to someone who has access to the building ‘help portal’ and then register a request.
Does that mean occupant complaint data can in fact mask the true comfort conditions in a building? If we all maintained the same level of base happiness throughout the day, would we find cause to complain even more in the morning and even less in the afternoon that we currently do? Lastly, why would people feel the need to log significantly more requests in the morning than in the afternoon? What’s going on there? Something for us to all think about as we enjoy a few weeks break before resuming in January 2012!
Quite an interesting article Craig. I think it would be hard to generalise the results from the Twitter study to office building comfort complaints because I don't think many office workers use Twitter when they are at work; it would be quite counter-productive to their job (unless you job description says you need to use social-networking sites, e.g. Twitter and Facebook. What a job that would be! Back to the content of the article: It is well known, in both academic literature and in practice, that the two most common complaints about workplace environments are comfort/temperature-related, i.e. they are too cold or too hot. One thing I think would be interesting is how these complaints relate to the internal temperature of the building, which brings to mind some studies I have come across: Wang et al (2005) found, to some degree, a moderately negative correlation (r = 0.36) between occupant complaints and occupant satisfaction ratings. In other words, as soon as occupants feel uncomfortable, they complain and say they are dissatisfied. Another was conducted by Federspiel in 2003, as part of an ASHRAE-funded study attempting to establish a thermal comfort occupant complaint prediction model that could predict the average number of hot and/or cold complaints per square foot per year as a function of the statistical behaviour of the indoor temperature. The model suggested that occupants were highly likely to complain that its 'too cold' at temperatures below 18.7 degrees, and would complain that its 'too hot' at temperatures above 26.6 degrees. Interestingly, and something that I just realised, these temperatures seem very close to the limits of the adaptive comfort model.
Thanks for discussing our study! Something you might want to look at is Figure 4 (on pg. 9) in this other paper: http://redlog.net/papers/facebook.pdf It looks like people send AC requests the same time they send emails -- when they're sitting at their desks!
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Thanks Scott - i got a lot out of reading you paper and I'm grateful for your contribution here. You make a really good point. We'll have a look at the distribution of the other complaints in the dataset and see if that reveals anything interesting.
Overnight. It is probable that the office cleaners have used back pack vacuum cleaners. This inefficient equipment, to quote a public health air conditioning engineer “moves the rocks around on the floor, and redistributes the fine dust particles over the desks” (50% of the air we breathe comes from the floor around us) ~ 7.00am -7.30am. The air conditioning is turned on. Moisture, fungal growth and microbial VOCs accumulated in the ducting overnight are introduced into the space. Cleaning chemicals used overnight, contain limonene and/or pinene adsorb onto surfaces and begin to react with ozone and nitrogen oxides (from motor vehicle emissions” in the “fresh air” from the ventilation, creating reactive irritants. 7.30am – 11.30am Depending on the individual response, during this period, the increasing office VOC concentrations (as the temperature rises) adds to the prior daily exposures, ranging from the chloroform produced in the shower (from chlorination), deodorants, after shave, motor vehicle emissions, including the inhalation of benzene (carcinogen), toluene, ethyl benzene and toluene from the vapour while you fill the petrol tank, or the diesel smoke emissions from buses. Flame retardants and plasticizers are emitted from computers (operating temperature 600C) During this time carbon dioxide levels are increasing from the ambient 390 ppm. to the 800 to 1000ppm (ASHRAE standard). 12.30pm – 2.30pm. Got to get out of the office for a “breath of “fresh air” Chemical exposure and carbon dioxide levels reduce. Natural daylight restores vision 2.30pm – 6.30pm Continuing relatively warm temperature ~ 230 (compared to overnight) allows ongoing outgasing of chemical compounds from walls, carpets, furniture and furnishings. Carbon dioxide levels approach 1500ppm (or more) and combined with low light levels the feelings of tiredness rises. Some people will experience sore or itchy eyes, runny nose, skin irritation, And/or headaches. 6.30pm Time to leave the office. Symptoms slowly diminish. Back again tomorrow to do it all again. So what’s the solution? Indoor air quality is more than thermal comfort and humidity; it is the air that penetrates into our lungs providing the vital life force – oxygen. Ventilation alone cannot deal with all types of contaminants in a room. Without effective high quality filtration, increased “fresh air” simply increases energy costs without a commensurate improvement in indoor air quality. An increased ventilation rate may only be treating the symptoms rather than the cause, and additional airflow from these ventilation modes substantially increases building operating costs, consuming as much as 30% of the total energy use. Compliance with energy rating schemes does not of itself deliver clean, breathable air. Only high performance filtration can provide this.
Perhaps individuals are more likely to take action in an uncomfortable situation if they feel that it can be sufficiently addressed? ie. They feel that the complaint is worth resolving if it is made earlier in the day? If the air-con is not set correctly at 3.30pm and the office closes at 5pm, perhaps they refrain from registering the complaint or even wait until the next day?
Interesting point you raise Shubha. Adaptive comfort theory is premised by the principle: 'if a change occurs as to produce discomfort, people will react in ways which tend to restore their comfort'. In a naturally-ventilated building this is facilitated by behavioural adjustments, e.g. opening/closing operable windows, removal/addition of clothing, etc. Within air-conditioned buildings, however, occupants do not have these luxuries. In fact some argue that by complaining about the air-conditioning settings, such occupants are exercising some psychological and perhaps behavioural adaptations to the indoor thermal environment. It has been demonstrated that many occupants of AC (air-conditioned) buildings prefer to have their complaints addressed and solutions provided in a timely manner, however, this is often not the case and therefore results in occupant dissatisfaction with the buildings and its facility managers. But I also raise the question that you need to look beyond the data that's provided. Could it be possible that these air-conditioning complaints are attributed to non-building-related factors, such as low staff morale, distrust of management, heavy workloads, etc. In other words, the occupants are simply looking for a scapegoat in which to complain about management issues.