Fans of the green building boom

The development of noiseless direct-drive motors over the last decade have sparked demand for ceiling fans in offices, churches, hospitals, and retail spaces.

Health and productivity
Employee comfort has been linked to financial savings for companies. A recent report by the World Green Building Council (World GBC) on health, well-being, and productivity concluded improvements in environmental conditions “can have a significant financial implication for employers” by improving employee health and productivity. This underscores the advantages of using HVLS fans—either in tandem with or as a replacement for traditional HVAC systems—to increase productivity and in order to decrease energy consumption.

Research and occupational safety standards indicate air temperatures in excess of 35 C (95 F) significantly increase the heat load on the body, with temperatures above 38 C (100 F) dangerous for workers. When temperature and humidity levels rise, the body’s natural ability to cool itself decreases, which is not good for employee health or productivity.

A U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) report stated “building retrofits which improved the indoor environment of buildings resulted in a reduction of communicable respiratory diseases, reduced allergies and asthma and non-specific health and discomfort effects.” The result was an estimated potential annual savings of $US 20 to 50 billion in productivity gains.

HVLS fans solve traditional HVAC problems through air movement, shifting the system focus from the thermostat to the occupants.

A Regina auto dealership found out firsthand about the link between fans and productivity gains. Colin Konanz, director of fixed operations for Capital GMC Buick and Cadillac, knew a traditional HVAC system alone was not a cost-effective solution for his 6967-m2 (74,992-sf) facility.

Located in the heart of Saskatchewan, the dealership needed to provide a comfortable environment for customers and workers year-round, despite dramatic weather shifts and temperatures ranging from −21 to 25 C (−6 to 77 F). Capital GMC’s traditional heating system had to run at its highest capacity to provide minimal heating to the workers at the floor level.

One of the most difficult areas to keep comfortable was the body shop. Even if the company installed air-conditioning, it knew the constant opening of the garage doors would make the system too costly to run. According to Konanz, so much heat was trapped at the ceiling during the winter that steam came off the overhead fluid delivery system and the workers could not touch it.

In 2014, Konanz installed 20 HVLS fans in the showroom and the body shop. He bought the fans to keep customers comfortable and decrease the amount of time his cars were exposed to extreme temperatures. While the fans achieved these goals, the most unexpected and lasting impact was on employee morale and motivation—critical for the long-term success of any business.

“When someone is more comfortable,” he said, “their attention to detail is better and their productivity improves.”

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