Jesse H. Neal Award
Jesse H. Neal Award
2014, 2013, 2012,
2011, 2010, 2009
Best Publication and
Best How-to Article
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A Publication of Stamats Buildings Media
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The Paradoxes of Perception and
FROM the EDITOR
Is the business case for healthy buildings turning
a new corner?
Certainly we have already passed the liability-ridden, sick building awareness
stage. Building owners appreciate the lawsuits and costs that such things as Legio-
nella, slippery floors, air pollutants and poorly lit parking lots can spawn. We have also passed the stage
where supporters of green buildings are ridiculed as treehuggers; the business value of efficient and
resilient buildings is generally accepted. Will there soon be broad acceptance by business of the idea
that a “well” office building – one with lots of daylight, comfort and natural features – increases the
productivity of occupants and thus profits?
Although research supporting the idea appears regularly, it remains tricky to quantify. The productivity of, say, manufacturing workers with sharply defined tasks seems measurable with confidence. But
measuring the productivity of office workers engaged in tasks like planning and problem solving is difficult; trying to correlate their productivity with a building’s characteristics greatly increases the difficulty.
The correlation between productivity and the office building has been approached with a variety of
measures, including task completion (e.g. reading speed and comprehension), impact of temperature
and noise, air quality, sick days, medical claims, stress levels, alertness, sleep patterns and staff turnover.
One survey by CBRE and the University of San Diego suggested that occupants of LEED or ENERGY
STAR-certified buildings were 4.8% more productive. A study by Michigan State University found that
groups that had moved to LEED buildings were less likely to miss work, resulting in 39 more hours
worked per year per individual.
In a report published last fall, the World Green Building Council showcased projects that had taken
comparatively modest steps – improving air quality, increasing natural light and introducing greenery –
to enhance productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover, and health costs. To make the business case, the
researchers estimated the value of the savings for each well office building over 20 years.
There is more to be done before the link between building wellness and productivity is widely
accepted but I think the industry is heading in that direction. This issue of BUILDINGS gives you simple
ideas on exactly these wellness topics, ones that won’t incur the expense of gutting your building and
starting over. You can begin your office’s wellness initiative on page 20.
Chief Content Director