Nest, AECOM add human factor to clean tech innovation

At the recent Cleantech Forum San Francisco, I was surrounded by buyers (investors) and sellers (cleantech startups) from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Sweden, Canada and Ecuador.  

The theme revolved around the environmental impact and value created by these companies' products and services, all of which were well meaning as they attempted to solve environmental problems.

With speakers from companies such as EMC, Google and General Electric, the forum had all the necessary ingredients for a compelling conversation on the future of energy, environmental innovation and more.

But something was missing for me. I think it was the human element or a more fundamental question that went unasked, and therefore, unanswered: What are the human factors that go into these disruptive innovations?

Here are some human factors I’d like to see measured and incorporated more in the valuation calculations for these clean tech innovations:

• Productivity

Gary Lawrence, the chief sustainability officer at AECOM, as heard in his presentation at Yale School of Management, says that the true cost of buildings are its employees: 10 percent is the cost of the building and 90 percent is the cost of your workers inside the building. If you make the building better suited to employee needs and behaviors, you also make the employees more productive.

Disruptive? You bet. Technology exists to measure people’s productivity, so why isn’t that a part of the value proposition for greener, cleaner and more energy-efficient buildings?

• Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS)

This almost goes without saying, but healthy buildings lead to reduced sick days and employees who are healthy, happier and more productive. There is a reason technology companies such as Google have created work environments that encourage collaboration, innovation, out-of-the-box thinking and attentive, well-nourished employees. A pursuit of "green buildings" and the thousands of products available today with the promise of reducing energy and increasing environmental regeneration or your footprint cannot be understood or complete without including the human factor.

Next page: Labor Costs