WorldGBC report highlights happy, healthy ‘green’ offices

Green Building Office

Employers, building owners, designers and developers throughout the world are showing that it pays to invest in greener offices that keep their occupants healthy and happy, a report from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) reveals.

“Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices”, which was released on the 25th of October 2016, highlights the global momentum behind healthy and green office design and operation, and showcases over 15 buildings that are leading the way.

Simple steps such as improving air quality, increasing natural light and introducing greenery – those which typically have environmental benefits such as using less energy – can also have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs. The report is the latest to be released under WorldGBC’s Better Places for People campaign, which focuses on healthy green buildings.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, said: “While our earlier work presented the overwhelming evidence between office design and improved health and well being of workers, this report breaks new ground by demonstrating tangible action businesses are taking to improve their work spaces. The results are clear – putting both health and well being, and the environment, at the heart of buildings, is a no-brainer for businesses’ employees and the bottom line.”

The report identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices which can impact on the bottom line:

1. Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation – a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability;
2. Thermal Comfort – staff performance can fall 6% if offices are too hot and 4% if they too cold.
3. Daylighting and Lighting– a study found workers in offices with windows got 46 minutes more sleep a night than workers without them.
4. Noise and Acoustics – noise distractions led to 66% drop in performance and concentration;
5. Interior Layout and Design – flexible working helps staff feel more in control of workload and encourages loyalty.
6. Biophilia and Views – processing time at one call centre improved by 7-12% when staff had a view of nature.
7. Look and Feel – visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction.
8. Location and Access to Amenities – a Dutch cycle to work scheme saved €27m in absenteeism.

(All of the sources referenced above can be found on pages 14 and 15 of the report)

The World Green Building Council has developed a simple framework to help companies take action. It calls on them to assess key environmental factors which affect health and well being, survey employees to find out how they experience them, and measure the economic factors they influence, such as productivity, absenteeism and medical costs.

Key case studies in the report include:

New healthy workplace valued at $47 million over 20 years – Delta Development Group and Heerema, Amsterdam, Netherlands
(Green building rating: BREEAM-NL ‘Excellent’)
Delta Development Group’s new 12-story global headquarters for Heerema significantly raised the satisfaction of its 1,100 employees, by improving air quality, increasing thermal comfort and maximising daylight. The marine contractors expect to realise a net present value of €42 million ($47 million) over 20 years in productivity, staff retention and reduced absenteeism, based on a study by KPMG.

Cutting sick days by two thirds – Skanska’s Northern England Hub, Doncaster, UK
(Green building rating: BREEAM-UK ‘Outstanding’)
After Skanska rebuilt its new Northern England hub in Doncaster, UK, it saw 3.5 times fewer building-related sick days than other UK offices, saving the company £28,000 in staff costs in 2015. Improvements to layout and noise, indoor air quality, and a central light well bringing more daylight into the building saw staff satisfaction with their office jump from 58% to 78%.

Doubling call centre productivity – Saint-Gobain, Malvern, PA, US
(Green building rating: LEED Platinum)
Saint-Gobain’s new North American headquarters has a fitness centre, 1.3 miles of walking trails for its 800 staff, more than 100 collaborative workspaces, including some outdoors, and 92% of offices have outdoor views. Call centre staff doubled their productivity after moving in, with a 97% increase in sales-generated leads and 101% increase in leads per call.

More collaboration and less absenteeism – Medibank, Melbourne, Australia
(Green building rating: Six-Star Green Star)
Medibank’s new plant-filled office includes 26 types of workspaces, from tranquil areas to collaborative hubs, fireplaces on every floor, edible gardens and sports facilities. Two in three staff feel healthier, 80% are working more collaboratively and absenteeism is down 5%.

Building developers and owners are also discovering that it is a smart business move to invest in healthy buildings. In a survey of 200 Canadian building owners, 30% said investment in healthier buildings had a positive impact on the building’s value, 46% said they were easier to lease and 28% said they commanded premium rents.

Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the GBCSA said: “The business case for healthy, sustainable buildings is being proven over and over. Various reports have shown unequivocally that green buildings cost less to build than expected and yield a higher return on investment. Now this research confirms what we have always believed – that green buildings have a hugely positive impact on the health and productivity of their inhabitants.”

The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is one of over twenty national Green Building Councils around the world that are championing the cause of healthy green buildings, through certification and rating tools, research and stakeholder engagement to show how organisations all over the world are profiting from increasing the health and wellbeing of the people in their green buildings. Research from organisations such as the International Well Building Institute and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, supported by United Technologies (UTC), is transforming the way we understand the interaction between human health and well being and the green workplace.