How productive is being green?

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Frank Teng
Energy and Sustainability Services

Although it’s fairly accepted in the industry that green buildings are better for occupants and improve productivity, there’s still a ‘show me’ attitude from those who want project-specific quantifiable benefits. While we can confidently calculate dollars and CO2 saved from various improvements, is there a generally accepted, verifiable way to show whether employee productivity legitimately improves?

Researchers have tried to measure productivity from many angles, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Michigan State University. Children’s test scores have been shown to improve about 17% in certain LEED schools. The overall conclusion is that even if productivity can’t always be measured, employee value usually outweighs any improvement costs manyfold. At GreenBuild 2010 some speakers claimed improvements in productivity based on employee self-reported productivity improvement. Depending on the survey method, this employee self-reporting could be a valuable metric or fuzzy math.

We know that indoor environmental quality has effects on asthma, respiratory allergies, depression, stress, and productivity. Is it fair to extrapolate research data and apply it to your LEED project? Or is improved occupant satisfaction valuable in and of itself? Until we figure out a way to quantify these ‘soft’, albeit important benefits, they will remain an afterthought in the value of green building.”

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