May 7, 2014
In March a report from the British Council for Offices appeared to show that people are happier and more productive when working in green buildings. But the idea that staff find greater job satisfaction when they work in environmentally friendly surroundings is challenged by a new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham and the Centre for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. It found that, contrary to other research, people working in LEED certified buildings appear no more satisfied with the quality of their interior design and fit-out and may enjoy no more overall level of job satisfaction than those working in less green buildings. The research was carried out by Stefano Schiavon at Berkeley and Sergio Altomonte of the University of Nottingham and published in the April edition of Building and Environment.
The research is based on responses to a survey of just over 21,000 people in 144 large office buildings, primarily in the United States. Just under half of the buildings used in the study (65) were LEED accredited. The authors claim that this makes it the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind on the subject of links between individual happiness and performance and the environmental credentials of the built environment.
The report paints a complex picture of the interrelationship, noting that satisfaction with green buildings diminishes over time, with the highest levels noted in the first year after occupancy and that LEED-accredited buildings may improve satisfaction when compared to non-accredited buildings in particular circumstances, for example when people are in open spaces rather than cellular offices and in the case of smaller buildings.
The authors also point out that the apparent disconnect between green buildings and occupant satisfaction may be linked to a failure to integrate green building design with a greater emphasis on employee wellbeing and performance. They believe that this issue warrants further investigation and will report on the next phase of their research next year.