Green Building Employees More Productive According to New Study

September 22, 2009
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A study by researchers at the University of San Diego's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and CB Richard Ellis has found that employees who work in green buildings are more productive than their non-green building counterparts. The study defines green buildings as those that are LEED-certified at any level or bear the Energy Star label.

In the study, researchers Norm Miller, Ph.D., academic director at the Burnham-Moores Center, and David Pogue, national director of sustainability at CBRE, surveyed 154 green buildings nationwide. The study, the largest of its kind by far, measured productivity by sick days and also the “self-reported productivity percentage change” after moving into a new building. Forty-five percent of respondents reported that they had experienced an average of 2.88 fewer sick days at their new, green office location as compared to their previous non-green workplace. An equal amount noted no effect, while 10 percent reported more sick days. The 10 percent that reported more sick days were residents of Energy Star-labeled buildings, which do not have the air quality requirements that LEED-certified buildings do.

Based on the average salary of the tenants, an office space of 250 square feet per worker, and 250 workdays a year, the 2.88 fewer sick days translate into a net impact of $4.91 per employee, according to Miller and Pogue.

On the self-reported productivity measure, 12 percent of respondents said that they strongly agree that employees were more productive in green buildings, 42.5 percent agreed that employees were more productive, and 45 percent noted no change in productivity. Miller and Pogue calculate that the increase in productivity translates into a net impact of $20.82 per employee, based on an office space of 250 square feet per worker and using average salary as an index.

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