There is now “overwhelming evidence” green buildings lead to healthier, more productive staff, according to a new report released by the World Green Building Council as part of this week’s World Building Week.

Health, wellbeing and productivity in offices: The next chapter for green building brings together evidence on topics like air quality, thermal comfort, daylighting and interior design to make a strong case for green buildings from a staff productivity perspective, rather than pushing the typical environmental case.

Quantifying the human benefits of green buildings has been the holy grail of the green building industry, as staff can account for up to 90 per cent of business operating costs. Small improvements in worker productivity can therefore mean massive financial gains.

While evidence increasingly points towards green buildings having positive effects of health, wellbeing and productivity, hard data is hard to come by.

While the report states it does not put the argument completely to rest, it does provide the latest available data, including case studies, and, where possible, financial implications. It then provides design strategies to overcome issues that could reduce productivity.

For example, latest research presented in the report shows that improved ventilation could result in productivity gains of up to 11 per cent, mainly through reduced sick days. In Australia, the report notes, ill-health and absenteeism costs businesses $7 billion a year.

The report also provides a toolkit for business to measure the health, wellbeing and productivity of their buildings in order to inform financial decision-making.

Sponsorship for the project was provided by Lend Lease, JLL and Skanska.

“As this report so eloquently points out, there is a natural sweet spot that occurs at the intersections where buildings, people and finance overlap,” JLL head of energy & sustainability services Asia Pacific Peter Hilderson said.

“Addressing each of these aspects in concert will lead to a more sustainable and productive outcome for an organisation and the planet. Organisations that invest the time and apply the necessary rigour to implementing this framework will unlock the benefits of these inter-relationships and reap the rewards.”

Geoff Dutaillis, group head of sustainability at Lend Lease, said that all businesses were in the business of people.

“How a building ‘works for people’ should be the priority question, he said. “This report provides further evidence that workplaces with clean air, natural daylight and engaging and adaptable layouts all contribute to making healthier, happier and more motivated individuals who create stronger, more resilient and profitable companies.”

Findings:

  • Indoor air quality: a comprehensive body of research suggests that better indoor air quality (low concentrations of CO2 and pollutants and high ventilation rates) can lead to productivity improvements of 8-11 per cent
  • Thermal comfort: research demonstrates that thermal comfort has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction and modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity
  • Lighting and views of nature: several studies have estimated productivity gains as a result of proximity to windows, with experts now thinking that views from windows are probably the more significant factor, particularly where the view offers a connection to nature
  • Noise and acoustics: research suggests that being productive in the modern knowledge-based office is practically impossible when noise provides an unwanted distraction
  • Interior layout: the way the interior of an office is configured (including workstation density and configuration of work space, breakout space and social space) has been found to have an impact on concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity
  • Active design and exercise: health can be improved through exercise, and so active design within a building, and access to services and amenities such as gyms, bicycle storage and green space can help to encourage healthier lifestyles of building occupants