Green Buildings = Increased Worker Productivity

Green buildings make for happier, healthier employees. (Photo: Allan Donque [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

Recent studies have shown that green buildings lead to higher rental income, lower occupancy rates, and an additional premium at the time of sale. Now a new study by the University of San Diego and CBRE allows building owners to add increased worker productivity to their list of green building benefits.

Norm G. Miller (University of San Diego) and Dave Pogue (CBRE) wrote the report, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Sustainable Real Estate.

The report’s abstract provides an introduction to the data contained in the 31-page paper, “Healthier buildings reduce sick time and increase productivity, making it easier to recruit and retain employees. The results provided here are based on a survey of over 500 tenants who have moved into either LEED or Energy Star labeled buildings managed by CBRE.” Source: Green Buildings and Productivity (PDF)

Study authors examined the effects that telecommuting, health care maintenance, temperature, indoor air quality, indoor pollution, innovative workspaces, and several other factors influenced employee productivity.

The report also discusses the effect that sick building syndrome (SBS) has on employees. Causes of SBS include inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor and outdoor sources, and biological contaminants. Green building rating systems, like the LEED certification system by the U.S. Green Building Council, address these causes and guide building designers.

The research team collected responses from 534 tenants in 154 buildings that were either LEED certified or were recognized by the EPA as an EnergyStar building. In order to determine the productivity of workers in the building, tenants were asked to report on employees’ sick days and the self-reported productivity figures after the tenant moved into the green building.

Survey respondents showed that 54.5 percent of tenants reported that employees are more productive with 12 percent strongly agreeing with this statement. Additionally, 45 percent of the respondents noticed a decrease in sick days since their individual company moved into the green building.

Surprisingly, 10 percent of the tenants reported an increase in sick days taken by employees. However, every tenant represented by this 10 percent was in an EnergyStar rated building that was not also LEED certified. Further research is needed to help account for the increase in sick days.

This study is just the latest report that confirms the many benefits to building green, beyond the obvious reduced environmental impact of the building. To read the study in its entirety, download the report now: Green Buildings and Productivity (PDF).