Green Building Increases Worker Productivity
Most would agree that a compelling case exists, at least anecdotally, for Green buildings as a positive influence on office worker productivity. And a 2007 study of productivity in a refurbished office building at 500 Collins Street in Melbourne, widely discussed in legal circles but little noticed by the real estate community, has shown there are real advantages for a business operating in a Green building.
The benefits of Green building extend well beyond the carbon footprint for Oakley Thompson, the law firm studied.
The move from its old office in the same building to a Green tenant space on a refurbished floor, provided: a 39% reduction in average sick leave days per employee per month, from 0.46 days before the move to 0.28 after the move; a 44% reduction in the monthly average cost of sick leave; a 9% improvement in the average typing speed of secretaries, with a significant improvement in overall accuracy; and, a 7% increase in lawyers’ billing ratio (the proportion of billings to billings plus non-billable time), despite a 12% decline in the average monthly hours worked by the lawyers.
Accepting the small sample size, from a single law firm, the changes are significant when subjected to a statistical test. Moreover, very similar benefits were observed from Lonsec, a securities firm that also moved into a refurbished Green office in the same building.
Happier and more productive employees were not the only benefit; the refurbishment also saved the law firm about $15,000 a year in energy bills.
Again sample sizes were small in this study by Business Outlook & Valuation, but when taken in the totality the results provide a convincing case that the Green building delivered business gains that far exceed the cost of upgrading the indoor air quality and environment of the offices. The results collected do not provide the basis of a predictive model for productivity gains from Green offices, but do provide a compelling case for Green building as a positive influence on staff productivity.
Given that business is ultimately about making judgments based upon the best available information, this Australian study suggests that Green buildings are a good business choice and makes a strong case for LEED Commercial Interior built-out premises.
This study is buttressed by numerous daylighting studies that have established links between building features and improved occupant health and performance. The well respected Leonardo Academy has found positive productivity benefits in a variety of building types, including schools. A Carnegie Mellon report in 2008 reviewed over 1,000 studies on the productivity impacts from Green and high performance building designs, finding that increases in tenant control over ventilation, temperature and better lighting, either high performance task lighting or day light, dramatically resulted in indoor environmental quality health and productivity cost benefits ranging from 0.5 to 34% in Green certified buildings.
A large health care study, as part of the LEED for Healthcare pilot, found a 2 ½ day earlier patient discharge as a benefit of Green hospital construction and operation. And USGBC has reported more than one national retailer in a Green tenant space has reported increased sales per square foot.
Moreover, recognizing that reduction in sick leave is key to productivity, a 2009 Oregon State University study revealing that absolute humidity in a building “explains 50 percent of influenza transmission and 90 percent of virus survival” suggests that more humidity introduced in office building HVAC systems will reduce air borne illness.
There are increasing numbers of Green office buildings with tenant space available for rent and other existing buildings that are ideal for a tenant to build-out its own premises as Green whether or not the shell is Green, utilizing the LEED Commercial Interiors standard. In most markets, all new Class-A building will be Green.
However, accepting that most businesses will not be relocating to a newly constructed Green building during this coming year, both LEED Commercial Interior and LEED Existing Building standards present very real opportunities for Green.
Going Green reduces operating costs and is a selling point with clients and with potential new employee hires.
Businesses with global offices have been more likely to go Green. Influenced by the EU edicts arising from the Kyoto Protocols, the Equator Principles of the financial community, and the like, many larger firms are responding as Fortune 500 companies have, with corporate wide sustainability initiatives.
But nearly all businesses, small and large, can improve environmental performance and reduce operating costs.
Green building has evolved from a niche market to a major market segment. The last year has been marked by economic uncertainty and we are still on the cusp of a Green building revolution. The economic benefits of going Green, buttressed with government incentives and mandates, will markedly change the Green building playing field in short measure. Profits are there for the taking.
With the business measures that allocate risks and rewards very much still being determined in this fast evolving area, it is already clear Green buildings are great opportunities for businesses seeking to maximize employee productivity while eliminating adverse environmental impacts from operations.
With personnel costs being, by far, the largest operating expense of most businesses, firms are best served investing in the productivity and happiness of that workforce, while saving the planet, by locating within a Green building or Greening premises within an existing building.
Your business is on the cusp of the Green building revolution. It’s time to act.
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