Columnists: Marine Faber, Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE)

Published on: 4 Mar 2019

People-centric renovations deliver major health, performance and energy benefits

If you are still wondering how – and if- energy efficiency projects such as ventilation, lighting or insulation upgrades contribute to a company’s competitive advantage or an organisation’s mission, wonder no more.

BPIE recently developed a set of publications, commissioned by Buildings 2030, for policy-makers and stakeholders from the health, education and real estate industries. These resources quantify and show the impacts that such energy-saving renovation measures can have on the productivity, academic performance, health or well-being of occupants.

This research takes a key step towards defining, measuring, quantifying and monetising the impact of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of occupants in offices, schools and hospitals. Focusing on the health, well-being and performance of staff, students and patients will boost property values, financial returns and societal gains. With optimal thermal comfort, lighting and noise levels, people will stay more focused, avoid stress and perform better.

In a hospital for instance, a lighting upgrade can contribute to a quicker patient recovery time, which improves bed occupancy rates and lowers operating costs. Improved indoor environmental quality can reduce average time spent in hospitals by 11% - about one day. Across 90 million patients annually, that is a societal benefit worth around €42 billion.

One third of European employees work in an office for an average of 8 hours a day. Most companies spend 90% of their operating costs on people, including salaries and benefits. A comfortable, healthy and well-designed work space can improve employee’s performance, decrease staff turnover and absenteeism and thus boost business competitiveness. Many leading businesses are pursuing health and well-being initiatives focusing on improving physical office environments and employee programmes from a human resources perspective. BPIE’s analysis reveals that a holistic, employee-centric renovation in a typical office can lead to up to a 12% increase in employee productivity. At the European level, that could be worth up to €500 billion annually.

Finally, in schools, optimising the indoor climate improves performance, so students could achieve the same results two weeks faster!

A four-step approach was used to analyse and quantify these impacts: a broad literature review to identify and link the impacts of IEQ on people; an in-depth literature selection and calculation to quantify health, educational and performance benefits; extrapolated to a European context to calculate average impacts over a full year; and finally, monetising the value of the benefits based on time savings and improved performance. The methodological details and basis for the figures can be found in the methodology document.

Building owners, real estate managers, tenants, occupiers and professionals across the built environment supply chain have a key role to play in demanding and delivering these benefits! And, the Multiple Benefits project can help you in the process by:

  • Analysing, selecting and investing in energy efficient, better buildings that are aligned with strategic objectives
  • Valuing the health, well-being and performance benefits of energy saving measures when appraising building renovation options and new construction
  • Engaging the education, health and health insurance sectors as allies and key stakeholders in supporting the business case for more ambitious performance targets and accelerated building renovation
  • Ensuring an ongoing dialogue between different departments, such as HR and facilities management functions, to ensure that buildings operate so as to optimise IEQ.

In addition, gathering data and feedback from different sources, including building users and smart sensors, can allow settings to be adjusted to meet the specific needs of occupants. Real estate developers, investors and planners can also lead the way in raising standards across their portfolios, which will eventually influence other players. The public sector also has a key role to play, since it accounts for around 12% of all non-residential buildings.

The set of publications is based on more than 400 academic articles, dozens of case studies and expert interviews focusing on health, well-being and productivity in buildings. This research takes the first step at defining, measuring, quantifying and monetising the impact of indoor air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics, controls and lighting on students, office workers and patients across Europe.


The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Marine Faber