Healthy buildings equal smart business

Healthy is a smart business
Living space: is ‘green’ the way forward

The business case for investing in sustainable workplaces is gathering momentum, with new research from the World Green Building Council revealing employees in greener buildings are more productive.

Improved staff retention, reduced absenteeism and staff working more collaboratively were among the key benefits of a greener, healthier building design according to the report, Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices.

The WorldGBC, which is made up of a global network of national green building councils, based its findings on nine features that characterise healthier, greener offices, including indoor air quality, thermal comfort, lighting and acoustics.

It also highlighted case studies of buildings around the world that are leading the way in sustainable operation and design, and how it has impacted on their business’ bottom line.

For instance, Swedish construction and development company Skanska was able to reduce sick days by two-thirds in its new Doncaster office by improving indoor air quality, cutting down on noise levels and increasing natural light by installing a central light well. The company was able to save £28,000 in staff costs in 2015, and employee satisfaction grew from 58% to 78%.

Beth Ambrose is the director of the Upstream Sustainability Services team at commercial real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle. She also chairs the WorldGBC Working Offices group, which compiled the report as part of its ‘Better Places for People’ campaign.

Beth says that air quality is a factor of particular concern among companies based in central London due to recent attention on pollution levels in the Capital, flagging “a noted uptick” in the use of pollution mapping equipment, as well as building sensors and personal wearable technology to monitor air quality indoors.

The World GBC report shone a spotlight on research out of Harvard University linking cognitive performance to building ventilation and indoor air quality. The ‘COGfx Study’ found that occupants of green-certified, high-performing buildings reported 26% higher cognitive function scores, slept better and had fewer health problems.

Beth says that businesses overall are placing more importance on sustainable design in their office spaces, and concern for their carbon footprint is not the only driving factor. “Companies are obviously very motivated to ensure the retention, and to support the performance, of their key staff,” she says.

“I’m particularly seeing this in technology, pharma and finance firms where the war for talent is fierce. “Providing the right kind of holistic indoor environmental conditions to support optimal health and cognitive performance is already becoming a really important part of their real estate considerations.”