Workers are More Productive in Green Buildings, Study Says

Workers are More Productive in Green Buildings, Study Says

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People who work in green buildings are more productive than employees who don't, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of San Diego's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and CB Richard Ellis.

The study surveyed 154 green buildings, containing some 2,000 tenants, across the United States. Five-hundred-thirty-four of the tenants participated, making the study the largest of its kind so far.

Researchers Norm Miller, academic director at the Burnham-Moores Center, and David Pogue, national director of sustainability at CBRE, looked at sick days and self-reported changes in productivity after tenants moved to a green building. For their work, the researchers defined a green building as one certified at any level of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system or bearing an Energy Star label.

The researchers found that:

  • 54.5 percent of those surveyed agreed that workers were more productive in a green building. (42.5 percent agreed with the statement,12 percent strongly agreed with the statement and 45 percent reported no change.)

  • 45 percent reported employees had 2.88 fewer sick days. (Another 45 reported no change and 10 percent of the respondents, some of those who had moved to an Energy Star building rather than a LEED-rated building, reported an increase in sick days. Researchers noted that there are no indoor air quality requirements for Energy Star buildings, unlike the LEED system, which includes IAQ standards.

{related_content}The researchers calculated that the increase in productivity translates to a net impact of $20.82 per employee, based on office space of 250 square feet per worker and using average salary as an index. The researchers also said the 2.88 fewer sick days equates to a net impact of $4.91 per employee, which also was based on the average salary among the tenants, an office space of 250 square feet and 250 workdays a year.

"If you consider the benefits in terms of recruitment, retention of employees, less sick time and greater productivity, tenants should be willing to pay more rent for such space or require steep discounts for less healthy space," Miller said in a prepared statement.

Green cleaning advocate Stephen Ashkin, president of the Ashkin Group and Sustainable Tool, LLC, said the study reinforces earlier research on the subject and deserves more attention.

Ashkin is presenting two seminars on green cleaning and sustainability the ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America tradeshow in Chicago this week.

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