A new study conducted by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) seeks to define and measure health and productivity outcomes from green indoor environments, aiming to add financial value to sustainable office buildings.
The WGBC’s objective is to establish a method for capturing the benefits of sustainable office buildings and identifying metrics that will support investment in greener buildings.
“Sick days, employee turnover and staff surveys are all likely to be investigated as potential ways of standardising the measurement of health and productivity of staff in their workplace,” WGBC researchers explained.
According to a previous WGBC report published last year which researched the health benefits of sustainable buildings, workers in green offices experience less stress, better health and are more productive. In addition, the report showed that improving ventilation can lead to up to 11 per cent gains in productivity and that enhancing lighting design can improve efficiency by 23 per cent.
While a number of studies confirmed that productivity grows through better quality office environments, no reliable method to measure office productivity has been established. However, researchers say there is a growing ‘market acceptance’ of the relationship between an office’s indoor environment - its layout and sustainable features - and the resultant health and productivity levels.
Other reports have demonstrated that poorly planned working spaces can result in a 20 per cent drop in workers’ productivity and several health and behavioural problems, whereas better access to outside views consistently brought about better performance in office workers and an increase in daylight exposure resulted in improved performance.
Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality within office spaces is to filter indoor air and get better natural ventilation. Installing an air purification system with an individual control of indoor air quality levels helps to provide high air refresh rates.
It is also important to eliminate or reduce air pollution emissions at their source, for example by installing low emission wall and floor coverings, avoiding having printers and copiers positioned next to work desks to mitigate toner dust pollution, and using chemical-free cleaning supplies.
Providing access to natural light through the optimization of daylight and suitable space planning is an ideal way to improve employee health and productivity. When artificial light is required, it is important to separate ambient and task lighting and to avoid glare on computer screens, providing effective light controls such as task lighting, blinds and shades that help to reduce solar glare.
The layout of a workplace should maximise access to outside views and should not have desk workstations located in the interior of deep plan buildings without any access to outside views and external space. To achieve this, office furnishings and the height of partitions can be adjusted.
Using all this data, the new WGBC report will create a list of best practices for green building features that add financial benefits to office buildings. This list of best sustainable practices, which deals with topics such as daylighting, ventilation and indoor office environments, could be used to inform green building investment decisions. The final report is expected to be launched by mid-2014.