Giving people control of the temperature in their workspace doesn’t just improve occupant comfort and satisfaction. It also delivers energy savings, identifies faults and improves efficiency, says Charter Hall’s Craig Rodgers.
Charter Hall was an early adopter of Comfy, an app that connects cloud-hosted analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence with a building’s BMS system to help people personalise their workspace.
Building managers get instant updates on how space is performing and where requests for adjustments come from. Over time, Comfy tracks user preferences and can automatically adjust heating and cooling preferences in different spaces or zones.
Craig, Charter Hall’s Innovation Lead for Office, spotted Comfy at a Silicon Valley technology conference and deployed the app two years ago at Charter Hall’s headquarters at Sydney’s No.1 Martin Place.
“Airconditioning is one of the most challenging elements for building owners and managers, as everyone feels temperature differently. The industry has been doing airconditioning the same way for a long time – with standard set temperatures – so we were interested to see if Comfy could help us create a better experience,” Craig says.
“We found our people liked having the ability to interact with the building and to give feedback on the temperature.”
After the trial proved positive, Charter Hall rolled out Comfy at three more buildings, with more on the horizon.
“With technology, adoption defines success or failure, and we’ve seen consistent adoption rates across our properties,” Craig says, adding that Charter Hall has just “ticked over 50,000 interactions” with Comfy users across the four buildings.
“We’re not pushing technology onto people. At the moment we get around 500 uses a week – so around 10 to 15% of the population in those buildings see value in Comfy.
“Users can log on, request a change and within less than a minute they’ll feel the difference. These are not big changes – we are not changing the space in the temperature by degrees – but people can feel the difference and that is powerful as we look to enhance workplace experience with our customers.”
Aside from the obvious customer benefit, Comfy “collects data at a level we’ve never had before,” Craig adds. “This data allows our operational teams to identify faults and potential trouble spots, and to understand, right down to the individual users, what experience people are having in a space”.
Comfy is also having a positive impact on energy consumption in Charter Hall’s buildings.
“We have been tracking building energy consumption for some time, but after introducing Comfy we saw energy drop by 6% almost immediately at one property and steady minor decreases at others. In a 5-star NABERS building, it’s really hard to move the dial on energy efficiency, but Comfy has helped us in high performing buildings with good customer feedback.
“In Australia I think we tend to overcool our spaces. Our data from Comfy shows a percentage of people actually like their space to be little warmer – and when you give them the choice, you start to see some of the cooling requirement reduce which can deliver energy savings.”