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Study: Green buildings increase productivity

Employees working in green buildings phone in sick to work less frequently and are more productive than their counterparts who work in non-green buildings, according to a recent study by University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis.

The study suggests buildings that bear the LEED-certified or Energy Star label are more valuable as office space because of the increase in productivity, said Norm Miller, academic director for USD’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate.

Indoor air quality, natural light and ventilation were cited as reasons employees perform better when working in green buildings.

“People like natural light, they like clean air,” Miller said, whether the effects be on health, morale or psychological.

Conducted by Miller and David Pogue, national director of sustainability for CB Richard Ellis, the study surveyed 534 tenants of 154 green buildings nationwide.

Of those surveyed, 12 percent of respondents said they strongly agree employees were more productive in green buildings, 42.5 percent agreed employees were more productive and 45 percent noted no change in productivity. Of the companies that reported an increase in productivity, the average increase was greater than 4 percent.

The increase in productivity was in part due to employees taking fewer sick days. Forty-five percent of the companies surveyed reported employees took an average of 2.88 fewer sick days at their new green office location compared with their previous location. An equal amount noted no effect and 10 percent reported more sick days. The 10 percent were residents of Energy Star-labeled buildings, which -- unlike LEED-certified buildings -- do not have air quality requirements.

The study estimates the increase in productivity translates into a net effect of $20.82 per employee based on an office space of 250 square feet per worker using average salary as an index. The average effect on productivity was estimated at $5,204 per employee, with the average impact of employees taking fewer sick days was estimated at $1,228 per worker.

The effect of increased productivity and fewer days lost to illness increases the worth of rented space by $20.82 and $4.91 per square foot, respectively.

Despite the benefits, it is important to note that the majority of respondents said they would not pay more for a green building, an attitude Miller said he believes will change as people begin to realize the benefits of such office space.

“Healthier buildings reduce sick time and increase productivity,” Miller said. “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.”


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