Green buildings and the greenification of urban areas are not new concepts. However, climate change, the pandemic and a social realisation of the importance of wellbeing have demonstrated a demand for greener, more sustainable office space across our cities too.
So, what makes a building green? The efficient use of natural resources is key to a green building. It should use less energy, water and other resources to build and to operate. Renewable energy may also be a feature such as installing solar energy from PV panels, whilst biophilic design which increases occupant connectivity to the natural environment is becoming increasingly important. Using ethically sourced, non-toxic and sustainable materials in construction are also a valuable consideration.
There are compelling commercial reasons for building green – both in terms of asset value and the productivity of employees using the building. According to Dodge Data and Analytics, building owners report that new and renovated green office buildings command a 7% higher asset value than non-green buildings – which is certainly good news for the balance sheet.
However, the benefits of green office spaces are more than just financial and environmental. They have a positive social impact too, particularly around the health, wellbeing and productivity of employees who spend a large proportion of their working week in the office.
Green building concepts now incorporate strategies designed to improve the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) of the workspace. Combating poor air quality, extreme temperatures, excess humidity, insufficient ventilation, inadequate lighting, poor acoustics and bad ergonomic design are all high on the agenda for employers whose aim is to shape a healthier workplace.
The World Green Building Council’s (WorldGBC), an organisation committed to the transformation of the building and construction sector and catalysing the uptake of sustainable buildings for everyone, works hard to support the drive for greener office space.
Through its eight-point framework, companies are able to take action and assess the key environmental factors affecting employee health and wellbeing:
– Indoor air quality and ventilation, a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability
– Thermal comfort, staff performance can fall 6% if offices are too hot and 4% if they’re too cold
– Daylight and lighting, a study found that workers in an office with windows got 46 minutes more sleep a night than workers without them
– Noise and acoustics, noise distractions led to a 66% drop in performance and concentration
– Interior layout and active design – flexible working helps staff feel more in control of their workload and encourages loyalty
– Biophilia, the use of direct nature, space and plant conditions and views, processing time at one call centre improved by 7-12% when staff had a view of nature
– Look and feel, visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction
– Location and access to amenities, a Dutch cycle to work scheme saved 27m Euros in absenteeism
Whether it’s a complete office overhaul that’s required or some subtle additions to the workspace, greener buildings have a role to play in employee productivity, the reduction of absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs. Increasingly businesses are now taking action to improve their workspaces, change working practices and try out new technologies to keep their employees happy and healthy for the future.
Barker are award winning property consultants who can advise on planning and implementing workplace change across your buildings. If you have a project you would like to discuss contact us.