The real benefits of green building. Not only does the building sector have the largest potential to reduce CO₂ emissions, but as places for work and living, buildings have a direct impact on the health and well-being of their occupants.
The World Green Building Council’s newest report, “Doing right by planet and people: The business case for health and well-being in green building”, tells the success stories of green building projects that have implemented features that have led to tangible environmental, health and economic benefits.

The report showcases eleven facilities around the world that have one or more green certifications including LEED, Green Star and BREEAM, and evaluates health and well-being features that were integrated into the facilities, such as enhanced fresh air ventilation, acoustic privacy, increase of daylight penetration and use of biophilic design elements such as green walls and extensive indoor plants.

Insights presented
According to the report, the case studies showed that:
•    The biggest economic benefits are realised when impacts to the environment and people are addressed jointly from the start of building design and a clear direction to achieve key metrics, such as improving air quality without sacrificing energy efficiency.
•    Achievements in energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions coming from on-site renewable energy systems can be incorporated with no negative impact on the design for occupants.
•    Employees prefer and work best when they are in spaces with ample natural light, good air quality and access to greenery and amenities.
•    The largest improvements in employee satisfaction happen when staff is engaged in co-designing their new green and healthy workspaces.

Some of the key results highlighted:
•    Operating with 48,5% lower greenhouse gas emissions than the United States’ (US’s) national average for healthcare facilities, the Akron Children’s Hospital project by HKS in Ohio achieved over US$900,000 in annual energy savings, and family satisfaction with the space increased by 67%.
•    Cundall’s new United Kingdom (UK) office focused on improved indoor air quality, monitoring CO₂ and VOCs. Staff turnover reduced by 27% and absenteeism dropped by more than four days per person per year, which is a 58% reduction. Taken together, these two outcomes provided a £200 000 saving per year.
•    Sherwin-Williams’ Centro-America headquarters in El Salvador saw a 68% reduction in reported respiratory problems and a 64% reduction in reported allergy problems after an office refurbishment project. Since moving to the new building, overall worker satisfaction also increased to 91% and absenteeism reduced by 44%. Sherwin-Williams has calculated a total annual saving of US$85 000 per year.
•    Plantronics’ office in The Netherlands saved the developer €624 000 in financing costs when the client elected to purchase the building. Increased employee productivity to Plantronics has been estimated at €2,1 million per year.
•    The American Society of Interior Designers’ new headquarters in Washington D.C. saw an increase in employee productivity and a reduction of absenteeism, which is expected to pay for its investment within the first five years.
•    Henderson Land Developments in Hong Kong has created a highly desirable mixed-use community with numerous green building certifications, achieving 97% occupant satisfaction and a 16% reduction in energy consumption compared to the building code. The development is realising 40% higher property values compared to nearby equivalent properties.

Terri Wills, chief executive officer of the World Green Building Council, believes that this report should send a clear signal to companies with employees as well as building owners and managers to make green building investments a priority.

“It’s obvious that making energy efficiency improvements will reduce operating costs, but arguably the even greater impacts of green improvements are those felt by the people who spend their working lives in these spaces. Greener workspaces are healthier, more enjoyable places to work, and this has a tangible impact on productivity, employee health and the business bottom line,” she says.

“Doing right by planet and people: The business case for health and well-being in green building” is part of the World Green Building Council’s Better Places for People campaign, and was sponsored by Mann+Hummel, Saint-Gobain, Landsec and Delta Development Group. It is a follow-up to the 2016 report, “Building the business case: Health, well-being and productivity in green offices”.

Download the full report here: www.worldgbc.org/access-report.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to the World Green Building Council for the information contained in this article.

Top 3 benefits:
•    Reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.
•    Improvements to occupant well-being, satisfaction and productivity.
•    Strong financial returns for the companies owning or occupying these buildings.

Caption main image:
The fit-out of Arup’s Boston office in an existing building is achieving a 12,6% energy cost reduction compared to ASHRAE 90.1-2010.
© Darrin Scott Hunter

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