Columnists: Marine Faber, Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE)
Published on: 4 Dec 2018
How health and well-being in green offices will benefit businesses
Buildings are places where we work, study, live, play, get better, spending 90% of our time indoors. In Europe, 80 million workers spend 8 hours each weekday in an office.
When it comes to office buildings, the impact on our health and well-being is proven and even measured, with consequences on our productivity, and on the companies hiring us in the process.
Employees working in well-insulated buildings, with fresh air and no mould, will have fewer sick days (66% less absence in healthier and greener buildings, as calculated by Human Resources managers. This makes investment in healthier buildings a strategic business-decision for companies!
Two World Green Building Council reports, released in the past years, provide interesting facts and figures from real-life case studies:
- The 2016 report “Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices” sets the scene for the topic with 7 case studies pointing at features that make healthier and greener offices (page 9/27). The report includes research by four national Green Building Councils on their markets and the buildings in their countries which have been using health and well-being as a tool to attract tenants and support occupants.
- The second one, “Doing Right by Planet and People: The Business Case for Health and Well-being in Green Building”, launched in 2018, presents 11 case studies that further explore the links between green features, occupant satisfaction and economic benefits, following WorldGBC's Metrics Framework outlined into a 2014 report.
The 11 facilities from the second report have several characteristics in common: they have one or more green building certifications, they have measured occupant satisfaction, and have used the results to deliver indoor spaces fitting occupants needs, where they can feel healthier and more productive. In addition, they have measured economic benefits resulting from the green and healthy features (such as enhanced fresh air ventilation, acoustic privacy, increase of daylight penetration and use of biophilic design elements such as green walls and extensive indoor plants) and the improvements in occupant satisfaction.
The cases present innovative strategies aimed at inspiring others in the sector to invest in healthier buildings. Investing in retrofits or new constructions makes the buildings more energy efficient while delivering economic savings and decreased operating costs from resource-efficient design and operation as well as savings from reduced staff turnover and absenteeism.
One case study reports that employee sick days in an office dropping by nearly half and staff satisfaction rising to over 91%, which they feel was achieved in part by co-designing the office together with employees. In another case, the Cundall’s UK office, absenteeism dropped by more than four days per person per year, a 58% reduction and staff turnover reduced by 27%. Taken together, these two outcomes achieved £200,000 savings per year.
A third example demonstrates that a building’s asset value will increase by getting greener and healthier. The Delta Development Group building design was rewarded when their tenant, Plantronics, elected to buy the building that provided a valuable return for the developer.
Several case studies confirm fast returns on investment in green offices with a focus on health and well-being. Staff are core to business: making sure they are healthy and feeling good at work will have positive financial returns and impacts on the business competitiveness. Linking green features, occupant satisfaction and economic benefits have proven results for all.
Employers, building owners, designers, developers, and investors should look into these resources for good examples of how to create healthy, green, and profitable buildings.