BLOG – Green Buildings and Healthy Buildings

Green Buildings and Healthy Buildings

By Colin Powell Posted on August 9, 2016

While the Better Places for People campaign often gets associated with healthy buildings, our mandate, as a WorldGBC global campaign, is to raise awareness of green healthy buildings. In many green building rating systems, there exists an overlap (see page 212-214) between health and wellbeing guidelines, like the WELL Standard, and green building guidelines, like LEED v4, and as rating systems get updated, we are seeing greater inclusion of health and wellbeing considerations.

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There is already plenty of evidence that a green building is healthy for its occupants, more so than a conventional one. And this makes sense too: for example, a green building can use more natural ventilation which improves indoor air quality and a green building can incorporate more daylighting which improves productivity. This blog posts details some of the research the Better Places for People campaign found that shows that green buildings are often healthy buildings too.

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In the US, tenant satisfaction scores, a key metric in the experience pillar of the WorldGBCs metrics framework, in Bentall-Kennedy’s green-certified buildings were on average 6% higher when compared to non-green certified buildings. Those same green-certified buildings commanded up to 14% higher rental prices than non-green certified buildings. This is a great stat when making the business case for green healthy buildings.

In Australia, it was seen that overall comfort scores were approximately 10% higher for Green Star certified buildings than conventional ones and approximately 15% higher for self-reported “overall health”. The perception of overall better health is important for green buildings here – people feel healthier in those buildings. Indeed, in Taiwan, 75% of employees of green certified buildings, felt that their indoor environmental quality was comfortable whereas only 59% felt at ease in a non-green certified building.

In a 2004 study by Carnegie Mellon, highlighted in our 2014 Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices report, researchers showed that natural ventilation or mixed-mode conditioning showed a 47-79% decrease in HVAC energy use, which resulted in a 3-18% productivity gain, with an average ROI of at least 120%. So, bringing in more outdoor air reduced energy costs and improved the productivity of the workers leading to a huge monetary benefit.

study by Harvard showed that cognitive scores were 61% higher on the first day of worker exposure in a “green building” (higher outdoor ventilation) and then 101% higher on the second day than a conventional building. In fact, the results from a similar study by the same researchers will soon be released, but with a much larger sample size. Stay tuned!

There are a host of other examples that we won’t go into here, but it’s clear that green buildings can be healthy and lead to productivity gains too.  Regardless, further research is needed to quantify the benefits of a green healthy building over a conventional one. This information is key to proving the business case for Better Places for People.

Colin Powell is the Project Manager for Better Places for People and can be reached at cpowell@worldgbc.org