Green building design is a smart business move, finds report

A reduction in sick days, an improvement in productivity and increased collaboration between workers are among some of the key business benefits that are being realised through 'healthy' and 'green' office design and operation.

Investment in green buildings is also a smart business move for building developers and owners as it can have a positive impact on property values and attract premium rents, according to a ground-breaking new report released by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) this week.


WorldGBC chief executive Terri Wills said: “While our earlier work presented the overwhelming evidence between office design and improved health and wellbeing of workers, this report breaks new ground by demonstrating tangible action businesses are taking to improve their workspaces.

“The results are clear – putting both health and wellbeing, and the environment, at the heart of buildings, is a no brainer for businesses’ employees and the bottom line.”

The 50-page report, titled ‘Building the Business Case’, showcases 15 buildings from around the world that are leading the way in green building design through the likes of improved air quality, increased natural light and the introduction of greenery to create stronger connections between workers and the natural environment. These simple steps, the WorldGBC says, can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs.

Chair of the WorldGBC’s Offices Working Group Beth Ambrose added: “The business case for healthy buildings is being proven. All over the world, companies, both large and small, are redesigning their offices, changing working practices and trialling new technologies to improve the wellbeing of their staff, tenants and customers.” 

Business case

Case studies detailed within the report include the Doncaster offices of UK construction firm Skanska, who’s BREEAM-UK ‘Outstanding’ building has seen 3.5 times fewer building-related sick days than the firm’s other UK offices, saving £28,000 in staff costs in 2015. Improvements to the site’s layout, noise and indoor air quality, and a central light well bringing more daylight into the building has also seen Skanska’s staff satisfaction with the office jump from 58% to 78%.

Another construction company, Saint-Gobain, has seen the productivity of its US call centre staff double and after moving into new LEED ‘Platinum’-rated offices in Pennsylvania, which house a fitness centre and more than 100 collaborative workspaces, including some outdoors.

The report identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices which can impact on the bottom line: –

1) Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation – a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability;

2) Thermal Comfort – staff performance can fall 6% if offices are too hot and 4% if they too cold.

3) Daylighting and Lighting– a study found workers in offices with windows got 46 minutes more sleep a night than workers without them.

4) Noise and Acoustics – noise distractions led to 66% drop in performance and concentration;

5) Interior Layout and Active Design – flexible working helps staff feel more in control of workload and encourages loyalty.

6) Biophilia and Views – processing time at one call centre improved by 7-12% when staff had a view of nature.

7) Look and Feel – visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction.

8) Location and Access to Amenities – a Dutch cycle to work scheme saved €27m in absenteeism.

Within the report, WorldGBC calls on more businesses to assess key environmental factors which could affect the health and wellbeing of staff. Firms should survey employees to find out how they experience the buildings they work in, and assess the potential economic factors that green design could influence such as productivity, absenteeism and medical costs.

The report comes less than a month after a separate study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health and the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University discovered that employees working in certified ‘green’ buildings are likely to have better cognitive abilities, fewer ‘sick building’ symptoms and higher sleep quality scores than those working in non-certified buildings.

Read the WorldGBC’s Building the Business Case report here.

edie’s green buildings month

The month of October sees edie shift the editorial spotlight from energy efficiency to green buildings. From new-builds to retrofits; construction design to building controls, this month of exclusive content will highlight the array of options available to improve the performance of buildings.

Stay tuned for green building-focused news stories, in-depth features and a special Sustainable Business Covered podcast episode which will investigate the latest techniques, the best management systems and the different steps UK businesses can take to increase the efficiency of their building stock and drive environmental performance.

Read all of our green buildings content here.

Luke Nicholls

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