Healthy buildings drives more productivity and user satisfaction
Healthy buildings drives more productivity and user satisfaction

Why you should invest more in making your building healthy than making it less energy consuming

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, people spend at least 90% of their time indoors. Healthy buildings are hence increasingly important since people still need to be productive and performant. The last decade, the focus has been on making buildings greener - sustainable and energy efficient. We say that now, investing first in healthy buildings lead to much more significant results including building energy efficiency.

 

Economic consequences of reduced work performance

In an office building, most of the expenses are on payroll. The rent may be 10% of the payroll, and the energy bill maybe 10% of this amount. So economically speaking, it is not relevant prioritizing a 10% savings on 5% of your energy costs.

For instance, if you get more revenue per employee because they are more creative or they are processing more claims or able to process more reports, that can offset the full cost of installation and operation of a building that is needed to produce this increase.

 

If you think of the total cost of occupancy of a building, including the salaries you are paying per square meter, the rent you are paying per square meter, the energy you are paying per square meter, the real leverage is in salaries.

 

Economic consequences of a degraded indoor environment quality

People who don't feel well will perform poorly - surveys in office buildings show that office workers who report acute health symptoms perform significantly worse than those without acute health symptoms1. Much attention has recently been paid to research which has shown that indoor environmental conditions can, in fact, also have an impact on the health and performance of office workers. The studies carried out to date are consistent, showing that thermal discomfort and poor indoor air quality have considerable consequences on work performance2. They also show that similar or even greater impacts are observed for schoolwork and learning3.

Also, a poor indoor environment quality lead to health issues such as sick building syndrome, that inevitably lead to more absenteeism and more sick leaves. So for instance if you consider a 1% reduction in the cost of payroll because there is 1% fewer sick days, that completely dwarfs any of the costs of energy and even some of the costs of rent.

 

Too much automation technology => too much complexity => less control => more discomfort

A focus on building energy performance often leads to the proposal of more automated and less occupant control of the indoor environment, because occupants behaviour is often considered as unpredictable, overcompensating for minor discomforts, reacting too late or inappropriately. However, research shows that a low degree (or no) personal control highly correlates with indoor environmental dissatisfaction4 and sick building syndrome symptoms5 leading to more absenteeism and sick days.

In addition, if the most direct ways of alleviating discomfort (like adjustable thermostats, openable windows) are not provided or are too complex, people find other ways to satisfy their needs that are not the most efficient ones6,7.

Therefore, using a more human centric approach, offering the occupants a better interaction with their built environment can help fill the performance gap between what was predicted and the reality of the building in operation8.  

 

Health drives energy performance

Around 50% of the energy consumption of a buildings are related to usage. If you really plan to make energy savings at the workplace, you need to involve the occupants. Companies that promote health culture in the office demonstrate their concern for the health and well-being of their teams, which naturally creates an environmental awareness and spurs best practices. People working in such companies are more likely to pay attention to their energy behaviour at the office (and at home), or at least to respond positively to the management requests for energy savings.

Actions that aim at improving health and safety at the office often leads to energy savings. For example, a company may decide to prevent air dryness by lowering the heating by 1°C or 2°C, or the air conditioning, leading to significant energy savings.  
Reciprocally, acting to save energy can have a positive impact on health : by reducing or energy consumption, we reduce our GHG emissions leading to better air quality.

  

 

The need for creating indoor environments of high quality has never been so preponderant, due to the covid19 crisis. The benefits are multiple :

  • better occupants/employees health
  • improved productivity
  • environmental performance
  • long term value of the buildings

By emphasizing a human centric building design and operation,  one fosters a virtuous circle where buildings protects their occupants, employees are more engaged and more productive, companies are willing to pay more rent hence creating more demand for healthy buildings .

 

GreenMe helps businesses make their office spaces healthier and more energy efficient. Objective measurement of the quality of the indoor environment and employee awareness are part of the actions we take.

 

 

References

  1. Nunes, F., Menzies, R., Tamblyn, R.M., et al. (1993) “The effect of varying level of outdoor air supply on neurobehavioural performance function during a study of sick building syndrome (SBS),” Proc. Indoor Air '93, Vol. 1, 53-58.
  2. Wargocki, P., & Wyon, D. P. (2017). Ten questions concerning thermal and indoor air quality effects on the performance of office work and schoolwork. Building and Environment, 112, 359-366.
  3. Wargocki, P., & Wyon, D. P. (2013). Providing better thermal and air quality conditions in school classrooms would be cost-effective. Building and Environment, 59, 581-589.
  4. A.C. Boerstra. Personal control over indoor climate in offices: impact on comfort, health and productivity. PhD thesis. Eindhoven: Eindhoven University of Technology. (2016).
  5. J. Toftum. Central automatic control or distributed occupant control for better indoor environmental quality in the future. Building & Environment 2010: 45: 23-26 (2010).
  6. S. Karjalainen, V. Lappalainen, Integrated control and user interfaces for a space, Building and Environment, 46, 938-944, 2011 13.
  7. W. O’Brien, H.B. Gunay. The contextual factors contributing to occupants’ adaptive comfort behaviors in offices – A review and proposed modeling framework. Building and Environment, 77, 77–87 (2014).
  8. Runa T. Hellwig1,*, Marcel Schweiker2, and Atze Boerstra3 The ambivalence of personal control over indoor climate – how much personal control is adequate?

 

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