high performance buildings
The seven-story high-rise in Minneapolis, designed by Michael Green Architecture and DLR Group, will be the largest mass timber building in the U.S.

New research released by real estate services firm stok on Tuesday unearthed a hidden value of high performance buildings: happier and healthier people.

By designing office buildings for improved human health and wellness, owner-occupants can earn $3395 per employee in annual profit thanks to increased productivity, less absenteeism, and higher rates of retention.

According to the research, this can amount to $2.78 million or 6.29 per cent in combined benefits per high performance building (HPB).

Over 10 years this is a net present value of $21,172 per employee, or $10.68 per square metre.

The report’s findings – which aim to shore up the business case for healthier offices – were calculated by applying financial impact calculations to over 60 robust research studies on the effect of HPBs in three areas: productivity, retention, and wellness.

Sick days are estimated to be reduced by 30 per cent in healthy buildings, with 50 per cent the most optimistic estimate, and 10 per cent the most conservative estimate.

The chance of someone leaving the company drops by somewhere between one and 10 per cent in a healthy building, and productivity goes up by as much as nine per cent.

Features of healthy buildings that people benefit from include views of nature, biophilic design, thermal comfort and air quality, maximised natural light and reduced glare, and fewer distractions.

“We’ve seen this shift in the drivers of business value over the last 40 years. In the 70s, the US was driven by capital investment and manufacturing,” stok stated.

“Today, the foundation of the US economy is services which are driven by intellectual capital rather than tangible assets. If more than 80 per cent of a company’s value is based on its people, shouldn’t buildings be designed to optimise their performance and wellness?”

The findings mark a shift in thinking around HPBs, which are traditionally upheld for their energy saving benefits and increased asset values.

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  1. Maybe its the engineer in me that questions blanket claims like these.
    I’ve had a strong interest and curiously in building usability and functionality ever since my first boss said we don’t go back and check to see if our air con designs work, because if they don’t our clients will complain anyway.
    I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with social researchers and building use experts over the years and my understanding is that things aren’t as cut and dry as made out by “productivity” claims. Rod Bunn was recently in Australia following his post-doctorate research into building and occupant analysis. It would be wonderful for him to share some of his findings with TFE.
    A fascinating insight he shared with me was the unrealised value of good bathroom facility design and maintenance bring to users.

    1. Well there’s a challenge, Phil. We’re going to call you to hear more! Thanks for sending through. We’re all about the questioning. And as we are mere mortal journos we absolutely rely on the experts to share their insights.

    2. Posting this on behalf of alice@stok.com as comment has twice failed to appear (we’re investigating)

      Thanks for your comment, Phil! Productivity is definitely an ambiguous concept and as we state in the report, we cannot guarantee a 3% enhancement in productivity will result in a 3% increase in revenue. However, our point with this paper is that productivity and its relationship with revenue (and ultimately profit) simply cannot be ignored. We have applied our calculations and models to demonstrate that even when a 3% enhancement in productivity results in a 0.3% increase in revenue, this still has a significant financial impact. When these resulting financial analyses are applied to the value engineering discussion, they will ultimately change the discussion around the types of designs that typically get value engineered out of projects. We appreciate your skepticism and would love to discuss more if you have any other concerns.