Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 1
ASHRAE "Workshop on Productivity and the Indoor Environment
PREFACE TO WORKSHOP PROCEEDINGS
Hal Levin, Proceedings Editor
Engineers, architects, and other building designers and managers generally believe improving
indoor environmental quality will enhance productivity. Most of their arguments depend on
indirect evidence because direct evidence is difficult to obtain. On the other hand, it seems
obvious that poor environmental conditions can impair performance and, therefore, reduce
productivity. Anyone who has been in a real bad building knows it.
To the degree that people perceive indoor environmental quality as important, they will
presumably be more willing to invest in and support better design, equipment, and operation.
The linkages between indoor environmental quality and productivity are viewed differently by
various professionals and researchers. The main features of the indoor environment of concern
to the ASHRAE community are the maintenance of thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and an
acceptable acoustic environment (Rohles et al, 1989; Dorgan, 1994).. Other features of
concern include lighting, privacy, security, work station ergonomics, aesthetics, spatial
allocation and layout, communication, and wayfinding, among others (Brill, 1983; Kaplan, 1992;
Steelcase, 1982; Vischer, 1989).
Architects and interior designers as well as ventilation system engineers have argued previously
that the productivity benefits from improved indoor environmental quality outweigh the costs,
often by considerable margins (Dolden and Ward, 1985; Levin, 1994; Woods, 1989; Wyon,
1991). However, there is little direct evidence of the linkage between improved indoor
environmental quality and measurable productivity improvements. Yet interest in the subject is
substantial due to the enormous demonstrated and potential economic, social, and individual
consequences of the quality of the indoor environment (Brill et al, 1983; Dorgan, 1994; Kaplan,
1992; Levin, 1994; Steelcase, 1978, 1980; Woods, 1989 ).
Building owners want evidence that investing more in a facility will result in improved occupant
performance. Designers themselves and other building industry interests want to know exactly
what environmental qualities are required to support productivity. As a result, there have been
numerous studies and meetings over the past fifteen years aimed at clarifying the relationship of
indoor environmental quality to occupant comfort and productivity. This report presents the
results of one such effort, the “Workshop on Indoor Environment and Productivity” sponsored by
ASHRAE and held June 24-26, 1992.
LINKING INDOOR ENVIRONMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY
Because direct evidence demonstrating the link between indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and
productivity is often difficult to acquire, many argue the relationship on the basis of indirect
indicators of productivity (Wyon, 1993) Some indirect indicators that have been used are
absenteeism, turnover rates, health care costs, physician visits, and other variables that can be
studied for a large group of employees or a whole building population. Authorities have
supported their arguments with evidence from laboratory or field studies of the effects of
environmental variables on such things as typing speed, typing errors, or performance of other
Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 2
tasks. Others have used investigations of the effects of environmental conditions on vigilance,
concentration, memory, and other prerequisites for certain types of productive activity.
Professionals and researchers have applied diverse methods reflecting their particular
disciplinary perspective to characterize the indoor environmental quality and its impact on
occupants. Engineers have relied more on “objective” physical-instrument measurement
methods to characterize the environment while architectural researchers generally have relied
more on occupants’ responses to questionnaires and interviews (Dolden and Ward, 1985, Elder
and Tibbott, 1980). Nevertheless, at least some members of both groups have used occupant
judgments of the environment and its impact on them - either alone or together with physical
instrument measurements of environmental variables. Alan Hedge and his co-workers actually
asked office workers whether they believed the work environment supported or impaired their
performance and productivity (Raw et al, 1990; Levin, 1992).
Jacqueline Vischer questions the common skepticism about the reliability of “subjective” versus
“objective” measures of environmental quality (Vischer, 1985). Like John Zeisel, Jan Wampler
and many other architectural researchers, Vischer believes that investigator observations are
useful clues that can augment or even replace other environmental assessment tools (Vischer
1985, 1989; Zeisel, 1981; Wampler, 1979). At the same time, she does not discount the need
for measurements for certain factors such as illumination where she believes occupant
judgments are poor indicators of the potential for eyestrain followed by fatigue and headaches
(Vischer, 1985). Vischer promotes use of a short questionnaire administered to a sample of the
office worker population Vischer, 1989). In contrast, Audrey Kaplan believes such sampling can
fail to capture the important experience of many occupants, especially those whose needs are
not adequately met by the quality of the indoor environment. Further, Kaplan contends that the
cost of a more complete is small compared to the total costs of such studies ( Kaplan, 1995).
Robert Marans points out that many architectural researchers fail not only to measure the
characteristics of the environments they study, they also fail to specify adequately the
environment (Marans, 1984). A similar shortcoming can be observed in much of the engineering
indoor environment research literature regarding characteristics of the building, occupants, or
their activities relevant to the occupant responses being studied. Even where questionnaires
are administered to all or nearly all occupants, environmental measurements are usually made
for only the general area or open space, or for a small sample of the individual spaces in a
building. Hodgson and his co-workers found significant relationships between
microenvironmental measurements they made at each worker’s work station and the symptoms
reported on questionnaires administered simultaneously (Hodgson, 1991).
Fred Rohles and his co-workers developed a two-step process for assessing occupant
responses using questionnaires. First they asked occupants what they considered important
from among a list of the various environmental factors. Then they asked the same occupants to
rate various environmental factors on a six point scale. They used the importance ratings to
weight the environmental factors, then calculated a single overall rating of acceptability (Rohles
et al, 1987; 1989). Thus, the environmental factors deemed important by each individual were
weighted more heavily in arriving at the overall environmental score. While not directly aimed at
assessing the link of environment to productivity, the significance of this study, like Mark Rea’s
work in lighting research, is its focus on refining tools for interpretation and analysis of the
collected data from subjective responses (Rea, .1982).
Indoor environment-productivity researchers have addressed various aspects of the physical
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environment including thermal conditions, illumination, ventilation, air quality and acoustics,.
Some have emphasized ergonomics and the office work station. A few have been concerned
with privacy (visual and acoustic), security, individual control, and aesthetic qualities. Even
fewer have looked at institutional and psychological factors such as attitude, motivation,
employer-employee relations, job stress, and job security as contributing factors. Rohles and
Woods among others have attempted to develop integrated rating systems for occupant
responses to the indoor environment (Rohles et al, 1989; Woods et al, 1993).
A major problem for those wishing to study the indoor environment - productivity link in non-
manufacturing environments is the measurement of productivity. The supermarket, the
insurance claims processing office, the school classroom, the consulting engineering office, and
so many other occupancy types require different definitions of productivity from the mythical
“widget” factory. Particularly difficult is the measurement of “knowledge work” whose inherent
value is its quality rather than quantity (Kaplan, 1992, 1995). Many authors have simply
calculated the relative magnitude of salary costs versus facility costs (National Bureau of
Standards, 1965; Woods, 1989; Dorgan, 1994; Levin, 1994).
Productivity must be defined differently for different occupant activities. Direct measurements of
productivity are not always possible. That is why those who argue the existence of a beneficial
impact of indoor environmental quality on productivity use indirect evidence. Studies of
environmental impacts on vigilance, concentration, typing speed or errors, etc. are cited in
support of establishing various environmental requirements.
PREVIOUS MAJOR STUDIES AND MEETINGS
Several major endeavors addressing the link between indoor environment and productivity are
described briefly below.
The Steelcase - Louis Harris Associates Study
Steelcase, a major manufacturer of office work stations, contracted with the Louis Harris
Associates to conduct a study in the late 1970s and early 80s Their were two studies based on
in-depth personal interviews with more than 1000 office workers and more than 200 office
executives. The second of the two was a follow-up to the first and focused on productivity
issues.. Each of the studies resulted in a separate publication (Steelcase, 1978; 1981).
The second Steelcase report’s authors concluded that “...office workers draw strong
connections between their comfort in the office and their job performance, just as they do
between the overall satisfaction with their surroundings and job performance.” They wrote that
both workers and their supervisors believed that they would make fewer errors and concentrate
better if their comfort was improved. The study subjects also believed that comfort on the job
would increase their productivity.
The Steelcase report goes on to say that workers generally favored having their productivity
measured, even though in most cases it had not been measured previously. The report points
out that this attitude toward measured productivity was based on an assumption that
productivity would be rewarded through increased pay, promotions and other rewards. Clerical
workers were more resistant to measurement, the report speculates, due to the lower likelihood
that their productivity would be rewarded.
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After pay, the next most important stimulus to productivity, according to the report, is more
comfortable heat, air conditioning, and ventilation. Many workers did not feel they had the right
work temperatures. The authors note that the survey was done during the period following the
implementation of the Carter Administration’s energy conservation regulations, and most
workers supported the need for the regulations. Another important unmet need of the workers
surveyed was for a place to work where they could concentrate without distractions. Even as
early as this study was done, the investigators found that 45% of non-smoking employees were
bothered by nearby smokers.
Finally, the report said, office workers generally want to be involved in the decisions that affect
them including their personal comfort, and they believe their involvement will “...contribute to
their productivity and general job performance, and to improving the offices in which they work.”
Brill and the BOSTI Studies
Michael Brill and his colleagues at BOSTI (Buffalo Organization for Social and Technical
Innovation) planned studies with broad funding support and many participating organizations.
The work relied on a questionnaire administered in numerous organizations and aggregated
and used to compare organizations. The results were published in a two-volume report (Brill et
al, 1983). The studies were based on two research designs. The first was a quasi-experimental
design “...patched together...to deal specifically with all of the threats to internal validity
discussed by Campbell and Stanley...  It was a ‘before-and-after design with
nonequivalent no move/no change control groups.” A nationwide recession in 1979-1980
resulted in a drop-off in organizational participation. This resulted in a modification of the
research design to a “...before-and-after design with delayed follow-up measures and staggered
replications.” “Control groups, to all intents and purposes, were lost” (Margulis, 1985).
The principal instrument of the BOSTI studies of office environment and productivity were self-
administered questionnaires according to Margulis, one of the main investigators (Margulis,
1985). The results were presented in terms of the impacts of various facets of the environment
on four “bottom-line measures environmental satisfaction, ease of communication, job
satisfaction, and job performance. If job performance is most closely associated with
productivity, the facets relating to productivity were reported to be “enclosure” and “layout,”
probably “lighting,” and possibly “occupancy.” Comfort, temperature and air quality were related
to environmental and job satisfaction but not to job performance. Margulis reported that one of
the strengths of the research was the emphasis on objective assessments of the work
environment by employees [emphasis added]. Yet the methodology involved questionnaires
and interviews with supervisors “...using the same rating scales so results could be compared.”
Another strength Margulis identified was the use of cost-benefit/utility procedures to
demonstrate the economic implications of good design on job performance and job satisfaction.
In pointing out the limitations of the work Margulis reported that “...statistical analyses
emphasized the impact of single facets on outcome variables...” rather than multivariate
The ARCC 1985 Workshop
In 1985, The Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC), an association of university
architectural research organizations, sponsored “The Impact of the Work Environment on
Productivity” (Dolden and Ward, 1985). The stated purpose of the workshop was to develop
“...a much more inclusive approach to research on the potential effect of the new office
environment on productivity....” The proposal to the National Science Foundation for funding
boldly asserted that “...economic analysis reveals that the potential magnitude of the office built
Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 5
environment’s effect on national productivity can be greater than the contribution of all other
construction processes or building-related productivities.”
The ARCC workshop included 65 participants and produced a proceedings of more than 400
pages. It was, in many respects, an effort that paralleled the 1992 ASHRAE Workshop.
However, unlike the ASHRAE workshop, the ARCC workshop papers and discussions reflected
an emphasis on social science methods rather than physical science or engineering
measurements, although a number of the ARCC papers discussed measurement of physical
environmental parameters. The ARCC papers also addressed broader work environment
concerns, both within the physical environment and also within the social, organizational, and
institutional frameworks where the work is performed. A major sub-theme of the ARCC
workshop was the changing office environment resulting from broad social and economic trends
as well as from the technology of the office workplace.
The Electric Power Research Institute sponsored three meetings to identify research needs
related to office productivity and workstation environment control. The first defined research
issues related to office productivity research and office environmental systems. The second
defined the state of the art in office environmental systems and productivity measurement and
identified research that could lead to improved systems and increased productivity. The third
identified and defined specific industry research that could lead to new or improved uses of
electricity to provide individual (local) office environment control and increase workplace
productivity (Whiddon et al, 1988)
ASHRAE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT-PRODUCTIVITY WORKSHOP
ASHRAE assembled representatives not only of the engineering community but also
architectural researchers and institutional representatives for a two and one-half day workshop.
The organizers defined four major topics for the first four plenary sessions: "What is known,"
"Measures of productivity," "What can be done today?" and, "Experimental protocols." Each of
the four plenary sessions was followed by working group meetings resulting in four or five
separate consensus reports on the most important findings. There was a fifth session at the
end which was a free-wheeling discussion among all the participants. The organization and
conduct of the workshop is described in this report in detail in the Workshop Chairman’s
Overview, by Charles Dorgan.
Contents of the Report
This report contains materials from the ASHRAE "Workshop on Productivity and the Indoor
Environment". The reader of this volume will find abundant resources useful in identifying the
state-of-the-art in indoor environment - productivity research. The materials included in this
volume are as diverse as the wide range of activities, submittals, and post-workshop editorial
activities that occurred. It is hoped that this report will benefit future efforts to discuss, study,
and understand the link between the indoor environment and productivity.
The materials in this report include the pre-workshop submittals, materials produced at the
workshop itself, papers presented at the workshop, and materials submitted or produced after
the workshop and intended for inclusion. In addition, a few additional papers have been
although they were written by workshop participants either before or since the workshop.
Conference Chairman’s Summary and Overview
Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 6
Charles Dorgan, workshop chairman, prepared a detailed summary and overview of the
workshop which is included in these proceedings as Section 3. This summary and overview
also contains Dorgan’s views on the current state-of-the-art and knowledge on indoor
environment - productivity links.
Participant Pre-Workshop Submittals
Participants in the workshop were invited by the workshop organizers to submit a one-page
issues discussion prior to the workshop as well as papers or other materials the invitees
considered important for the productivity-indoor environment link. Only a few issue papers were
submitted before the workshop. These are included in Section 7, Participant pre-workshop
Submitted Literature Bibliography
Participants were invited to submit relevant papers, either their own or others, prior to the
workshop. Copies of the submitted papers were distributed to all participants at the workshop,
and they are all listed in the bibliography in Section 10 of this volume. After the workshop, each
participant was sent a copy of the bibliography and asked to rank the ten entries with the most
value and relevance to understanding the link between indoor environment and productivity.
While only a few responses were received, these are tabulated following the bibliographic
listings in Section 10. The rankings are presented to assist users of this volume to locate the
most valuable reference materials.
The first four plenary sessions each began with a chairman's overview followed by the invited
presentations. Not all invited speakers submitted papers representing their presentation. While
some speakers submitted papers prepared for the workshop, others submitted the slides or
overheads used in their presentations without text. Others submitted papers they had
previously presented or published. Section 4, Presentations, contains the session chair's
overviews and the speakers' presentation materials. Materials submitted in lieu of a paper
containing the content of the presentation paper are included in Section 9, Supplemental
Papers and Submissions by Presenters. Also included in Section 9 are two papers, one by
Charles Dorgan and one by David Wyon, included by the the Proceedings Editor.
Work Group Sessions
Four work group sessions followed each of the first four plenary sessions. The results of these
work groups are contained in Section 5 of this volume. These work group sessions produced
some valuable ideas the reader is encouraged to review carefully, although the format of the
material is not as accessible as we might like. At the work group sessions, "A" through "D",
participants brainstormed in response to a specific question or issue, then attempted to reach
consensus on the most important or valuable ideas. Topics or ideas were combined or
manipulated by various groups. The results of these sessions were recorded on flip charts. The
flip charts for Work Group Sessions C and D were made available for editing immediately after
the workshop, and transcriptions of these were made and distributed to all participants for
corrections and comments. The comments received were incorporated into the reports of the
work groups included in these proceedings in Section 5. However, the flip charts for Work
Group Sessions A and B were not available for editing until more than two years after the
workshop. It was determined that too much time had passed to request participants to review
and correct or comment on those work group flip chart transcriptions. They are included in this
volume with apologies in advance to those whose ideas or even names might be incorrectly
Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 7
On the second day, Carl Thor gave an invited lunchtime presentation. His talk was not
transcribed and he did not submit a manuscript. Two papers submitted by Carl Thor are
included in Section 9.
Post Workshop Submittals
At the closing session there was an open discussion on the workshop topics and discussions.
Some of the most interesting conversations occurred at this time, but it was not practical to
record the discussion. A few of the most active participants submitted their thoughts in the form
of memos or notes after the work shop, and these submittals are also included in Section 8.
Supplemental Papers and Submittals
Section 9 includes two papers by Carl Thor mentioned above. Also included in Section 9 are
two addional papers selected by the proceedings editor. The first, by Charles Dorgan,
Conference Chair, was presented at Healthy Buildings '94 in Budapest, Hungary. It contains
data not previously available. We have elected to reproduce the paper here because the
proceedings from Healthy Buildings '95 are not widely available or easily accessible. We have
also included David Wyon's invited keynote presentation from "Indoor Air ‘93 held in Helsinki,
Finland. In it, Wyon discusses numerous indirect indicators of productivity that are particularly
relevant to the indoor environment - productivity link.
We believe the materials assembled here will be useful to those considering or planning
research in indoor environment - productivity area and to those wishing to understand the
results of research that has been conducted. Clearly there is a need for continued research as
well as wider distribution and application of the results that have already been obtained.
Aronoff, S., and Kaplan, A., Total Workplace Performance: Rethinking the Office Environment.
Ottawa: W D L. Publications. P. O. Box 8457, Station T, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1G 3H8.
Brill, M. Margulis, S. Konar, E., 1983. Using Office Design to Increase Productivity, Volume
One, New York, NY: Buffalo Organization for Social and Technical Innovation (BOSTI) and
Westinghouse Furniture Systems Inc.
Campbell and Stanley.1966, Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research.
Dolden, M. E., and R. Ward, Jr. (eds.), 1985, Proceedings: The Architectural Research Centers
Consortium Workshop on The Impact of the Work Environment on Productivity, 17-19 April,
1985, Washington, DC; Washington: Architectural Research Centers Consortium, Inc.
Dorgan, C., 1994, “Productivity Link to the Indoor Environment Estimated Relative to ASHRAE
62-1989,”. in Proceedings of Healthy Buildings ‘94, Budapest, Hungary, August 1994.
Elder, J. and Tibbott, R.L. 1980. “User Acceptance of an Energy Efficient Office Building -- A
Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 8
Study of the Norris Cotton Federal Office Building.” NBS Building Science Series 130.
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Hodgson, MJ, Frohliger, J, Permar, E, Tidwell, C, Traven, C, Olenchuk, S, Karpf, M 1991.
“Symptoms and Microenvironmental Measures In Non-Problem Buildings.” J Occup Med;
Kaplan, A., 1992. “Facility Management Needs in Autormated Office Buildings.” EPRI TR-
100413. Palo Alto: Electric Power Research Institute.
Levin, H., 1992, “Hedge Comments on December IAB Article,” Indoor Air Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 1
Levin, H. 1994. Comments on OSHA Federal Register Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - Indoor
Air Quality, Submitted August 12, 1994.
Marans, R. W., 1984, “Evaluation Research in Architecture,” in Snyder, J., (ed.) Architectural
Research, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 113-124.
Margulis, S. 1985. “The BOSTI Studies of the Impact of Office Environments On Employee
Performance and Satisfaction: Introduction to the Methodology,” in Dolden, M. E., and R. Ward,
Jr. (eds.), 1985, op cit, 273-279.
National Bureau of Standards, 1965. “Study of Federal Office Buildings.” Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office.
Raw, G. J., Roy, M.S., and Leaman, A., 1990; "Further findings from the office environment
survey: productivity." Indoor Air '90 Vol. 1, pp. 231-236.
Rea, Mark, 1982. “Calibration of Subjective Scaling Responses,” Lighting Research and
Technology, Vol. 14, No. 3, 121-129.
Rohles, F., Woods, J., and Morey, P. 1989. “Indoor Environment Acceptability: The
Development of a Rating Scale.” ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 95, Part 1, Atlanta: American
Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers, Inc. 23-27.
Rohles, F., Woods, J.E., and Morey, P., 1987. Occupant Perceptions of the Work Environment.
Proceedings of the 31st Annual Meeting of the Human Factors Society. New York City. 1105-
Rubin, A., 1985. “Design for Productivity - End-User Involvement.” Dolden, M. E., and R. Ward,
Jr. (eds.), 1985, op cit. 113-120.
Steelcase, 1978, The Steelcase National Study of Office Environments: Do They Work?
Conducted by Louis Harris & Associates, Inc. for Steelcase, Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Steelcase, 1980, The Steelcase National Study of Office Environments, No. II; Comfort and
Productivity in the Office of the 80s. Conducted by Louis Harris & Associates, Inc. for Steelcase,
Preface: Proceedings of ASHRAE Indoor Environment - Productivity Workshop 9
Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Steelcase, Inc.,
Vischer, Jacqueline, “A Conceptual Framework for Buildings-in-Use: The Merging of Objective
and Subjective Approaches To Building Performance Assessment.” in Dolden, M. E., and R.
Ward, Jr. (eds.), 1985, op cit. 93-112.
Vischer, J. C., 1989. Environmental Quality in Offices, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Wampler, J., 1979, “Watching,” Journal of Architectural Research, Vol. 32: 20-21.
Whiddon, W. I., et al; 1989, Proceedings: Office Productivity and Workstation Environment
Control Workshop. EPRI CU-6556.
Woods, J.E., 1989; “Cost Avoidance and Productivity in Owning and Operating Buildings, in
James E. Cone and Michael J. Hodgson, Problem Buildings: Building-Associated Illness and
the Sick Building Syndrome. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus, Inc. 753-770
Woods, J.E., Arora, S., Sensharma, N., and Olesen, B., 1993. “Rational Building Performance
and Prescriptive Criteria For Improved Indoor Environmental Quality.” in, Jantunen, M., et al
(eds.) Indoor Air '93: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and
Climate, Volume 3, Helsinki. pp. 471-476.
Wyon, David, 1991, Keynote Address, in Proceedings of ASHRAE IAQ ‘91; Healthy Buildings,
Atlanta: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers, Inc.
Zeisel, J. 1981, Inquiry by Design: Tools for Environment-Behavior Research. Monterey,
California: Brooks/Coe Publishing Company.