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Impact of better indoor conditions on productivity of employees

World Green Building Council report makes the case for Natural Ventilation – it’s not about saving energy – it’s about saving staff!


Impact of better indoor conditions on productivity of employees

Making the Case for Natural Ventilation and the importance of proper ventilation in a workplace.

Latest Blog post by Breathing Buildings Consulting Engineer Owen Connick.


Last week I represented Breathing Buildings at Carillion's London workshop for suppliers offering innovative products, which Carillion believe can be effectively rolled out across their business. During the workshop I enjoyed numerous highly interesting discussions, both with other suppliers in attendance and with Carillion staff, in particular Chief Engineer Euan Burns, who recommended I read the World Green Building Council's latest report on 'Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices'.

In 2013, WorldGBC reported on 'The Business Case for Green Building', highlighting research which demonstrated that green buildings could enhance health, wellbeing and productivity for occupants.

The 2015 report is an attempt to build momentum on the same topic - to make the business case in favour of sustainable (green) building - and to provide a framework for better measurement of these factors; leading to more consistent data, and more evidence to inform investment and design decisions.


WorldGBC Report


The authors begin with an aspiration:

"if the human benefits of green building could be reliably quantified this would prove, beyond all doubt the ROI for building green."


However, this optimism is immediately followed with a surprising home truth:

Energy costs make up just 1% of total operating cost for a typical business.


One percent! This implies that a 10% saving on energy cost actually represents just 0.1% saving on total operating budget - not exactly the significant savings we like to imagine. Despite, and perhaps because, energy costs are such a small fraction of total operating costs, WorldGBC present the case that the benefits of green buildings go far beyond a simplistic measure of energy savings.


Overwhelmingly, research clearly demonstrates that the design of an office has a material impact on the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants. Staff costs, including salaries and benefits, typically account for about 90% of a business' operating costs. It follows that the productivity of staff, or anything that impacts their ability to be productive, should be a major concern for any organisation.


Commenting on the relationship between a building and its users, the report states:

… it is increasingly clear that there is a difference between office environments that are simply not harmful - i.e. the absence of 'bad' - and environments that positively encourage health and wellbeing.


Summarising the evidence in favour of green building practices, the authors break office environments into 9 factors. First and foremost amongst those is Indoor Air Quality, closely followed by Thermal Comfort.


Indoor Air Quality


The health and productivity benefits of good indoor air quality (IAQ) are well established. Whilst the results of individual studies cannot automatically be applied to any building, a comprehensive body of research can be drawn on to suggest that productivity improvements of 8-11% are not uncommon as a result of better air quality.


Thermal Comfort


Again drawing on a comprehensive body of evidence, the report summarises that thermal comfort has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction. With studies consistently showing that

… even modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity.


Further factors affecting occupants include daylighting & lighting, biophillia, noise, interior layout, look & feel, active design & exercise and, finally, amenities & location. These arguments, in essence, make a compelling case for green building practices; not on a cost & energy savings basis, but on a human benefit basis, in the form of improvements to health, wellbeing and productivity.The findings undeniably affirm that buildings can maximise benefits for people (occupants), andleave the planet better off; the end result being low-carbon, resource-efficient, healthy and productive buildings.


Fundamentally, this is about better practice and higher quality building - period.


The report was sponsored by JLL, Lend Lease and Skanska, and includes contributions from a large working group of industry, policy and academic experts from around the world.



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