Upgrades and retrofits to improve the environmental profile of the federal government’s building stock could raise public sector productivity by around $2 billion a year, the leading body of the sustainable construction movement in Australia says.

Green Building Council of Australia executive director Robin Mellon says green building could be the silver bullet the federal government is looking for when it comes to reducing costs and increasing public sector efficiency.

“Our political leaders agree that we must find new ways to increase Australia’s productivity for our economy to continue to grow and remain globally competitive,” Mellon said in an official statement. “One of the most effective ways to boost the productivity and performance of people is to improve the quality of their working environments.”

The WorldGBC’s Business Case for Green Building report from April this year, which addresses the health and productivity gains that can result from a more efficient building stock, indicates that Australia’s Green Star rated projects can increase worker productivity by between 10 and 15 per cent.

Employees of Macquarie Bank, for example, reported a 15 per cent gain in perceived productivity following their move to new Green Star-rated headquarters at 1 Shelley Street in Sydney, while the Green Star retrofit of 500 Collins Street in Melbourne resulted in heightened efficiency amongst both clerical and legal staff despite a 12 per cent fall in average monthly working hours.

Mellon said green building retrofits of the federal government’s building stock could deliver similar gains, which together could deliver significant cost savings.

“Even a one per cent productivity improvement – equating to just five minutes a day – can mean nearly 20 hours of additional productive working time over the course of a year. Multiply that by the hourly rate of each person and you can quickly see the returns,” he said. “With a federal government wages and salaries bill of $18.9 billion in the last financial year, a mere one per cent increase in productivity equates to improved performance with a dollar value of almost $200 million each year.”

“A 10 per cent improvement, similar to that already being achieved in Green Star-rated buildings across the country, would bring the value of annual productivity improvements to nearly $2 billion.”