Occupants of sustainable buildings generally have nothing but good things to say about the spaces in which they live, work, and play. In survey after survey, it has been found that when green building principles are incorporated into a new building or a retrofit, the experience of occupants is enhanced. Green building features with the biggest boost to occupant satisfaction include things such as promoting health and wellbeing of occupants through comfortable work and play environments, emphasis on visual, acoustic, and thermal comforts, quality indoor air, flexibility that provides social support, integration of technological tools, and systems that ensure reliability and safety.
Several recently published works point to just how much employees love working in greener buildings. One example is the report by Norm G. Miller and Dave Pogue published in the Journal of Sustainable Real Estatecalled Green Buildings and Productivity, which surveyed 534 tenants from 154 LEED or ENERGY STAR labeled buildings to find out what they thought of their buildings. It reported that 54.4 percent of tenants said they found greater employee productivity and 45 percent noticed a decrease in sick days. A recently published book,Green Buildings Pay: Design, Productivity and Ecology by Brian Edwards and Emanuele Naboni through Routledge, looks at 20 case studies in the US, Europe, and the UK with similar findings.
The business case for sustainable buildings can easily be made when you take these advantages into consideration. In fact, The World Green Building Council’s recently published The Business Case for Green Building noting many benefits experienced by building occupants:
- 10 to 25 percent increase in mental function and memory
- 6 to 12 percent faster call processing
- 8.5 percent decrease in length of hospital stays
- 18 percent greater worker productivity
- 15 to 40 percent increase in retail sales
- 23 percent productivity increase from better lighting; 11 percent from better ventilation, and 3 percent from individual temperature control
This kind of research consistently demonstrates that investment in green buildings has tangible benefits for occupants, and as a result tangible benefits for building owners and business owners alike. For instance, a one percent increase in productivity can offset a building’s annual energy costs. Countless studies have linked green building designs, such as increased exposure to nature and natural elements, better indoor air quality, and daylighting designs to increased employee productivity. As such, the Whole Building Design Guide suggests that a two percent investment in bricks and mortar to promote features that improve productivity (such as those found in green building designs) would pay for itself.
You see similar positive benefits in student performance when sustainable building principles are integrated into schools from kindergarten to college. Green schools report that students achieve higher grades and fewer absentee days. In one Heschong Mahone Daylighting study, students achieved 20 percent faster progression in math, and 26 percent faster progression in reading with daylighting designs. In a McGraw-Hill Construction study on the influence of green schools on occupants, they reported that students in green schools achieved better performance, enhanced health, and better attendance because of higher indoor air quality and other green building features.
For everything from daylighting designs, healthier indoor air, integration of plants and access to natural views, and better flow and functionality, green buildings are beloved by those who use them. It’s no wonder they’re catching on around the world.