Heatwave Hits The UK – What impact is that having in the workplace?

sun-clouds-blue-sky-14641020076aMAs an industry we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can save money on heating, reducing heat loss and plugging draft gaps in our buildings. If your heating breaks down or you have a very bad insulated building then most of the time the odd fluctuation in cold can be dealt with by putting a jumper or a jacket on.

What do you do when it’s too hot in the office?

Too hot in the office is hard to handle. In an office environment there isn’t really much that users can do to keep themselves cool. If you have a strict dress code you really don’t have any options, you still have to wear your suit each day. You might find it hard to concentrate, become very uncomfortable and even lightheaded or dehydrated in extreme cases.

office temperature and performance

Effect of Temperature on Task Performance in Offfice Environment, Olli Seppänen, William J Fisk, QH Lei (2006)

Extremes of temperature certainly affect productivity. There have been a lot of studies over the years looking at this issue – when you jam all the results together the overall effect seems to be a plateau around 21 – 23° and a decline in performance of about 1% for every degree above 25°

The good news is that there are seasonal effects. If your body is becoming acclimatised to 28° outside the office, it will tolerate slightly higher temperatures inside without too much impact on work performance. This might explain why a studies conducted in Florida by Cornell University found fewer keystroke errors and higher typing rates at 25°, where studies in Helsinki office environment identified more performance issues at 25°.

Office temperatures in the UK.

Sadly the UK is a lot closer to Helsinki than Florida, but this week week will see possible highs of 30 degrees. So what does this mean for our users? Well as you can imagine it’s hot in lots of your offices. During the last UK heatwave we saw temperatures of 39 degrees from one of our kittens!  We are talking about a normal office environment and thats clearly not comfortable.

Helpdesk and building managers across the country will be inundated with complaints about the heat. While we might be about to leave the cooling season and many FMs will be tempted to ride out the complaints, creating a more structured policy to deliver staff comfort has many benefits – and it doesn’t always have to mean a total overhaul of building services.

Temporary or permanent solutions?

It’s clear at times like this if you have a cooling problem in your building but relying on complaints doesn’t give you much data to identify what’s causing the problem or where the main problems are. Heatmapping using Purr’s system gives some hard data to help deliver staff comfort in a heatwave:

  1. Identity hotspots.
  2. Understand how well your air conditioning is working or isn’t!
  3. See where the heat in your building is coming from – for example solar gain or occupational gain.
  4. Find out if humidity is also an issue (with our temperature and humidity monitors).
  5. See if solar insulation is an issue – you could look to install blinds or solar reflective film.
  6. Identify where to prioritise temporary measures like fans, stand alone air conditioning units or even where to install more permanent units in the future.

In the UK we don’t always prioritise cooling within our homes or office as the common feeling is that we don’t get much of a summer so its not worth it. However as the climate becomes more variable creating a comfort policy that can deal with a problem that affects productivity and, just as importantly, morale, is going to become a higher priority.

If you interested in finding out more about our heat sensors and the insights you can gain from our services please contact us on 01223 967301 or help@purrmetrix.com

(Image with thanks to Public Domain Pictures)

Heatmap of the month – improving energy efficiency

There are many new products that help energy managers save energy from HVAC – one of the big challenges is understanding how to use them to reduce energy without compromising comfort.

Heat maps this month comes from an estate in the North of England with a very active programme of energy reduction. They show what happens in the office over three weeks as they trial a novel system in their condenser units, which offers exciting energy savings.

Here’s the first week – a record of seven days before the system was engaged.

In the second week the set up was tested for maximum theoretical savings. It’s immediately obvious that the building is struggling to shed excess heat after a warm weekend and although the performance is better towards the middle of the week, a warm day on Friday shows that the set up needs to be backed off to maintain comfort.

Has it worked? There is obviously still a problem in week 3 which was traced to a faulty HVAC sensor, not the new system. By the end of the week the sensor is replaced, comfort is restored for all occupiers and the energy manager can collect the savings from the new system knowing the output is what it should be.

Have you got an energy efficiency initiative that needs benchmarking? Get in touch and we can help you put some hard numbers around the performance of your systems.

Is there more to proptech than cleantech?

A recent survey from the RICS found that interest in proptech is reaching a high, with 79% of those surveyed saying their companies are planning to increase investment in technology.

Consensus in the profession seems to be that we’re only scratching the surface with what technology can do:

Cleantech and energy efficient buildings present one business case, but there is a lot of interest in what better workplaces can do to improve productivity.

Anyone with views on that relationship might want to get involved in the Stoddart Review, which promises to put the workplace on the corporate agenda – and provide a lot of data on what technology should be doing for the built environment.

Using onboard monitoring? Here’s four things you’re missing.

IMG_3382If your server, rack or cage is in one of the UK’s established and well run data centres you can probably guarantee that they are going to keep the temperature within a fairly well controlled temperature range (unless something goes very wrong).

You also probably already have onboard temperature monitoring in your servers, disk arrays and switches so I bet you have never thought about any other type of temperature sensing or even mapping.

But if you’re simply looking at onboard data the chances are you are actually missing out on a lot of interesting, actionable information. Lets talk about the useful stuff that we at Purrmetrix can help you learn.

1. Locating a Hot Spot.

When you look at your onboard monitors you get a number on a screen – maybe even a graph. But how – and where – does that fit in to the bigger picture and I mean that literally. By putting data into a heat map you can see instantly how that all fits in. Is the machine you are looking at the actual problem? Is it a wider issue in the rack with air flow? Is it one of the machines next to it? A picture paints a thousand words after all. You could use this information to help you to make a better informed choice about where to fit your next piece of kit or how to set up the next rack you buy. Untitled 2 (1)

2. Tracking access to racks

If you have 3rd party engineers accessing your kit for maintenance, replacing kit or just remote hands from the DC to check something out for you wouldn’t you like to know bit more about what they are up to? When they opened the door, which racks they accessed, how long they left the door open for while they walked away from the DC floor or even if they left the doors open when they left. Yes the data that you get from the kittens really are that sensitive as the picture below shows.Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 10.29.24

3. Remedying problem rack conditions

So what can you tell from the kittens that we believe can help you find out a bit more about whats going on when a fault occurs: if the temperature of the air coming into the rack has risen, if the air flow is being obstructed, someone has been into your rack, the humidity (only with the temperature and humidity monitors) has got up which could suggest a leak or a liquid spill, heat from a next door rack is effecting your rack etc. You could set up alerting in your account so that you can be informed when things go out of your preferred parameters.

4. Analysing what went wrong

Lets say that you had a total network meltdown and you really didn’t have time to study exactly what was going on in your rack regarding temperature. That’s ok because you can go back and replay the data when you have the chance. You might not have been able to figure out what happened or why. Perhaps the same scenario keep cropping up and causing a disk to fail or kit a server to reboot. You could find that there is some small event that is causing the issue or even that now you know how it shows up on the data you could recognise it sooner, set up an alert and stop it from causing the issue before it starts.

The importance of time and space.

There are a lot of possibilities but only with the correct level of monitoring. To make sense of the data you need to have information on where it is coming from, as well as when, and you can’t get this just from your onboard sensing. It’s time to bring our thinking up to date.

kitIf you think all of this sounds interesting then ordering a starter kit would be great place to start. A medium bundle contains 1 gateway and 8 kittens, this would do the trick for one rack with 4 in the front and 4 in the back spaced equally from top to bottom. If you want to have a chat to us about your current step up, problems you think you may have and how best you can detect them using kittens then you can contact us on 01223 967301 or help@purrmetrix.com

Liz Fletcher is Purrmetrix’s project manager. After nearly a decade in IT, miles of cabling and gallons of tea she is currently dividing her time between Purrmetrix and the UKNOF Programme Committee.





When Cleantech met Proptech – The Cleantech Futures Conference

Believe you me, startups in clean tech and property can end up going to a lot of networking events. Experience has taught me that a small conference that tries to cover a lot of ground risks leaving its audience behind – ‘stretching’ the schedule can leave delegates listening to topics that don’t engage them. Cambridge Cleantech’s agenda for their 2016 event was ambitious, covering clean tech growth, ideas and innovation for Connected Cities, presented by 26 speakers in a single day.

So I was sceptical. And I was proved wrong.

This was a conference with a lot to say and a lot to do, and if the objective was to arm us with facts about smart cities and innovation, it certainly succeeded. A random selection of fun facts:

– The UK’s emissions have fallen by 36% since 1990, according to the Committee for Climate change. Following the policy pathway fixed for the next 7 years should see the reduction increase to 57% down.

– In the UK water industry 24% of water supplied is still lost through leakage. That’s 24% of pumping energy wasted

– In terms of the ratio of broadband speed to broadband cost, large Asian conurbations like Mumbai are streets ahead of European capitals.

Unexpected heroes – the real estate industry.

Unexpectedly however a common story came across from a number of different speakers. A story about the real estate industry, community and sustainability. Historically, real estate (I include developers, landlords and their advisors in this group) haven’t treated sustainability as a priority. This is now beginning to change, at first at the top end of the commercial markets, where Colin Lizieri from the Land Economy department at Cambridge showed us how green premiums and the poor risk profile of less efficient buildings was beginning to influence valuations for property portfolios.

Slides on sustainability and real estate

The real estate industry: 40% of the world’s energy use and 40% of the enthusiasm needed to do anything about it. Slide from Colin Lizieri, Department of Land Economy, Cambridge University

Coming in the other direction, Savills latest research (presented by Nicky Wightman and available online with a fun interactive model) on the most attractive cities to operate tech companies in emphasised the importance of quality of life in cities, and how efficiently they work. Remember, the value of any individual building is limited by how attractive it’s city is – by its context and the community which it sits in.

From building to city to community

And here’s the interesting part…what happens when developers start to think about not just individual buildings but how they work together to create effective cities, and even effective communities? A couple of great examples came from Rebecca Britton at Urban & Civic, developers of two substantial sites in Cambridgeshire (Alconbury and Waterbeach Barracks). Urban & Civic are spending a lot of time working with the existing communities around their developments to make sure that these developments enhance their lives and are sustainable.

These sorts of brownfield developments are small scale templates of how to integrate smart city solutions – for transport, sustainability, quality of life – and offer some useful lessons for anyone interested in larger smart city innovations and how they might get adopted. Particularly in how to work with the public to make sure existing communities feel a sense of ownership and interest in these solutions. Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth  made this point in his opening – smart city solutions need to be adopted from the grass roots up, and as with low carbon generation technologies, the most effective way to engage people is not to thrust top down solutions on them but to give them ownership of the technologies.

Smart city technologies

And yes, there was a lot of technology at this conference. It’s a smart cities conference in Cambridge, what did you expect? From a new marketplace in energy proposed by Origami Energy, to hyperlocal weather forecasts for bike commuters, there is a huge range of solutions just waiting for markets to mature and business cases to be made. This has been the case for many years in smart cities and while government initiatives in many countries have supported pilots there has always been a sense that wider adoption is just around the next corner.

Yesterday was the first time that I genuinely felt the industry might be turning the corner. A Real Estate industry which learns to build efficient high quality places, not just buildings, and is rewarded for doing so by a community that gets returns from these better cities – that’s a welcome step up from our current situation.

We’re looking forward to doing business with them.

Beer Festival Calibration

Here at Purr Towers we all like beer and we all like small accurate internet connected temperature sensors. So we thought why don’t we bring the two together? This weeks 43rd Cambridge Beer Festival seemed like the perfect opportunity, so as the latest in a long line of Cambridge technological firsts Purrmetrix are pleased to bring you the first internet of things enabled beer festival. Welcome to the future.

What’s Purr?

Purrmetrix build small retrofit-able wireless battery temperature sensors that report their temperature every 17 seconds or so via a 433MHz radio through a gateway and then onto our database. We also provide software that allows our customers to browse, graph and consume their data and run various kinds of analytics and to set alerts. So we had a chat with the organisers of the beer festival to ask them what might be useful and we quickly settled on a plan.

Deploying kittens to keep watch over the beer

We call our temperature sensors kittens. We deployed 26 kittens in total. 11 kittens are measuring the ambient temperature in the main marquee. These are spread around the front of the various bars. If you look carefully on the posts at just above head height you might catch site of our smiley faced kittens blinking away, they flash every time they report there temperature.

A bundle of temperature monitoring kittens

A bundle of kittens ready to go and monitor beer temperature

We also placed 9 kittens in the ‘Igloo’ which is a chilled cellar like room where the Key Keg beer and some of the other craft beers are stored. And we also chose 6 beers where we placed two kittens on the back of each cask. Disclaimer: the kittens on the beer are measuring the ambient temperature of the air around them, which will be a little warmer than the temperature of the beer. But the beer is actively cooled, by chilled water pumped over the casks and the casks and the kittens are well insulated. The fact that the temperature these kittens are reporting is very stable tells me the system is in a nice steady state so using this data as a proxy for the beer temperature is not a totally stupid thing to do. But can we do better?

Tim’s grim experiment

Of course we can. When I go to the festival this evening I will be taking a modified kitten that has been sheathed in a prophylactic, which I will be using to measure the temperature of these beers as they will be served to the punters. This will allow us to added a small correction to calibrate our kittens.  I need to make clear it will only be my beer the device will be dipped in*  I will report back on how this goes tomorrow. Anyway pop to the earlier blogpost  https://www.purrmetrix.com/beer-festivals-too-hot-to-handle/ to get the low down to look at the data that we are collecting and feel free to email us or tweet if you want to know more.

*That’s a relief. Ed.