Tenant satisfaction is always one of your priorities, but it’s not always your top priority. When something goes wrong in your building, you’ll be the first to hear complaints, and sometimes you have to pick your battles for which complaints to attend to immediately and which ones can wait.
As winter approaches, you may start to experience even more problems in your building, and have more complaints to attend to. Some tenants will be hot, others will be cold, and others will have broken appliances or leaks in their space. It can be easy to push something as mundane as comfort the bottom of your priority list, but this year make a resolution not to.
Why? Because comfort complaints from your tenants may foreshadow stronger consequences than you expect.
Consider the Adjustability of Your Temperature Range
When I went searching for a new apartment last weekend, I asked each tour guide how large of a range of adjustability tenants had for the temperature of their space. Despite the central air and heat in every building, they all looked at the dials on the wall and reported what was there: 40-80 degrees. I giggled, because you and I both know that you don’t allow one tenant to keep their room at 40 degrees, and the one next door to keep theirs at 80 degrees.
Most high performing buildings allow for about four degrees of variance across tenants: two degrees above and below a certain “perfect” temperature. Your goal should be to make that temperature as balanced as possible to keep tenants comfortable. You may even choose to widen the range by a few more degrees for the winter.
The dial that allows tenants to make their rooms “warmer” or “cooler” are there to make them feel in control, which is certainly a good thing. However, tenants will quickly learn about their lack of control, and may then try to fix the problem themselves.
Help Tenants Avoid Space Heaters
What do people do during the winter if they’re too hot? They open the windows. And what if they’re too cold? They sneak in space heaters.
You may not allow the dial in each office to vary the room temperature more than a few degrees, but if the tenants in one office open their windows, your boiler is going to have to work much harder to bring the room back up to the temperature that the tenants decided was too warm in the first place.
There are things that are worse than opening a window. For example: space heaters. First of all, they’re usually illegal because they’re fire hazards. Second, they suck up power and blow circuits. It will be a lot harder for tenants to get their work done if their computers won’t start.
In summary, the more of an effort you make to figure out the temperature your tenants want, and adjust your building accordingly, the less time and energy you will waste competing with them.
Optimize Office Space for Tenants Who Work Late Nights and Weekends
In a perfect world, your building would operate at its baseload outside of normal office hours. That would be pretty simple, if people really only worked from 8am-6pm from Monday to Friday. There are three main options for tuning to their schedules without wasting too much energy or capital. You can:
- keep the building running 24/7, or at least most of the time,
- include in the lease that you will operate the building during standard hours, plus Saturdays from 9am-1pm, or you can
- charge companies when one of their tenants comes in at an irregular hour, so the heat can be on for them, but they will pay for it.
The third option can be realized by having tenants swipe access cards to turn the HVAC on and off during irregular hours. Hopefully, then the building will only need to generate heat for part of the building, and not the entire building.
A leaking pipe may seem like a more urgent issue than tenant comfort, and it usually is. However, it’s easy to push comfort too far to the bottom of your list of issues to deal with. If you really want to take control of your buildings this winter, and keep your tenants comfortable to avoid potentially larger, then you should consider how to generate the ideal temperature in your building, and make sure your adjusting throughout the winter as you receive feedback.