Worker Productivity and LEED Buildings
We spend 90% of our time indoors; we live and breathe inside of these buildings that are so intertwined in our life. Our built environment is one of the most impactful aspects of our lifestyle, and many are changing the way we think about buildings. The most apparent benefits of sustainable buildings, particularly LEED certified buildings, are the monetary savings from operating costs including energy efficiency. However, there are many features of LEED certified buildings that are beneficial socially and financially by improving worker productivity and satisfaction. Since labor is a major expense for private building owners/organizations; when committing to sustainable buildings there is an interest in exploring the return on investment pertaining to increased employee satisfaction and job performance. Studies show that a “small increase in the total employee performance is much more sustainable than cost savings from utilities and maintenance” (Young & Guerin, 2010). Additionally, the environmental satisfaction of the workforce is important because it increases job satisfaction and aids in retention.
A major feature of a LEED certified building is improved indoor air quality when compared to a conventional building. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in conventional office buildings can have a negative impact on physical health (asthma, respiratory issues, etc.), as well as psychological health (e.g. depression and stress). Physical health can be affected by poor air quality, excessive humidity, insufficient ventilation and extreme temperatures. Mental health can be impacted by acoustics, ergonomic design, and inadequate lighting (Singh et al, 2010). Both are known to result in absenteeism and reduced productivity. LEED buildings focus on these issues and address them head on. Two case studies were conducted by Singh et al. They compared the employees’ perception and productivity when moving from conventional buildings to LEED buildings. The study concluded that improved IEQ resulted in reduced absenteeism from respiratory allergies, asthma, depression, and stress. Individuals also reported improved productivity.
These findings show the positive effect that green buildings have on public health, worker productivity and satisfaction. When comparing LEED certified buildings to their conventional counterparts, it is important to realize the value that a building can hold and the benefits that are not easily measured.
Lee, Y. S., & Guerin, D. A. (2010). Indoor environmental quality differences between office types in LEED-certified buildings in the US. Building and Environment, 45(5), 1104-1112. doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2009.10.019
Singh, A., Syal, M., Grady, S. C., & Korkmaz, S. (2010). Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity. American Journal of Public Health, 100(9), 1665–1668. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2009.180687
Written by: Morgan Price, USGBC WM Program Administrator