Because thermal comfort systems, lighting and other features are often studied, selected, and implemented into the design of a facility in a vacuum, it can be difficult to know which systems need to be upgraded and which will yield the greatest payback both financially and in terms of worker productivity.
High Performance Facilities Synchronization (HPFS) is a design methodology that can help alleviate this design vacuum. Unlike traditional design, in which components are researched and designed based on their own merits, HPFS is an alternative design process that delivers a more comprehensive, holistic view of a building's systems and the interrelationships between those systems. With HPFS,and engineering teams, along with client personnel, work in interconnected groups to design and engineer the systems of a building.
To realize how HPFS can help transform the workplace, one must first understand how HPFS is employed. Both a framework and an application, HPFS helps guide design decisions for work environments. HPFS does this by defining capital improvements to the built environment as investments that add value to organizations over a lifecycle because of accrued performance enhancements for the building's occupants.
With HPFS, system selection is based on the inter-relationship between key parameters that can optimize the design of the workplace and its impact on worker productivity. These parameters may include:
•Thermal Comfort: Achieved chiefly through air temperature, which can be influenced by a person's metabolic heat production, physical activity, clothing and the humidity of the surrounding air.
•Lighting Quality: Including direct, daylight, task light, and indirect ambient light.
•Indoor Air Quality: Affected by the level of personal control, ventilation, filtration and pollution.
•Culture: Creating spaces that impact and/or support the company's beliefs and behaviors, foster positive interactions between employees, and improve productivity.
A project created using High Performance Facility Synchronization begins with the design team and client working in close harmony from pre-design to post. For HPFS to be successful, effective communication must take place between architects, engineers, interior designers, vendors, contractors, and the client.
Replicating the Results
Recently, researchers at the University of Cincinnati studied the HPFS model, applying a quantitative model – which had never been done before – to make an evidence-based case for the benefits of using HPFS for both new and remodeled facilities. The U.C. research team found that applying HPFS when designing the office workplace provided significant economic advantage to the organization that will occupy the facility.
“As borne out by our research, investment in workplaces can indeed yield better returns if funds are allocated selectively on a suite of design interventions as opposed to randomly engaging on single design interventions,” said lead researcher Mousa T. Gargari, P.E., Ph.D. Professor, School of Advanced Structures, U.C. College of Engineering and Applied Science. “In short, the synergistic effect of the combined interventions optimizes profits.”
For designers and building owners, such research has enormous financial implications, particularly since most building owners are working within a finite budget. As the results of the U.C./Hixson study show, considering performance, lifecycle costs and tax advantages when designing a building can result in better corporate value versus the first-cost advantage of many conventional construction solutions. Although the HPFS approach requires more upfront collaboration and planning, the benefits are not only financial, but result in a facility that is more adaptable to change and which provides improved worker comfort and increased productivity.