December 22, 2016
A new study from researchers at Harvard claims to establish a link between those standards for green buildings with an indoor environmental quality (IEQ) component and the wellbeing and productivity of employees. The study, The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health, has been published in the journal Building and Environment. Based on a study of 109 subjects in ten ‘high performing’ buildings compared to staff from the same firm in uncertified buildings, it found that respondents enjoyed a 26.4 percent uplift in cognitive performance, a 6.4 percent increase in sleep quality and 30 percent fewer symptoms. The accreditations used in the study were LEED New Construction 2009, Green Star Office v3, BREEAM New Construction 2012, BCA Green mark for new non-residential buildings v4.1 2013, and DGNB New Office v2012
“The goal was to go out of this really highly controlled environment into real buildings and see if we see some of the same impacts on activity in actual buildings, as opposed to just the simulated conditions,” says Piers MacNaughton, a doctoral candidate at Harvard who was one of the researchers. “If you’re in poor thermal conditions, you perform worse on the day of the test,” says MacNaughton. “For lighting, we saw that lighting impacts sleep quality, and then intuitively, the participants that slept worse at night did worse on cognitive tests the next day. We really see that people are starting to build around this concept of a healthy building. It’s starting to motivate occupants, building owners, developers, to think about the way they operate their buildings and design their buildings.”
The link between green buildings and wellbeing is now increasingly well established. At the beginning of this month, the The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and BRE announced an agreement between the two organisations to ‘pursue alignments between the WELL Building Standard (WELL) and BREEAM that will make it easier for projects pursuing both standards.
The link is an increasing focus for the world’s various bodies of the Green Building Council. In November, the new headquarters in Central London for the UK Green Building Council (pictured) announced that it had achieved the lowest embodied carbon footprint ever recorded for an office refurbishment in the UK and was designed to inspire and encourage employers, landlords and occupiers alike to set the bar high when upgrading their office spaces, according to the organisation. It claims that the project is an exemplar for sustainable office refurbishment and features a range of wellbeing measures.