People in the United States spend more time working than citizens of any developed nation. On average, the working American spends 1,801 hours a year working, or 37.5 hours a week. Even with recent work-from-home developments resulting from COVID-19, most knowledge workers will spend thousands of hours in their office buildings during their lifetime. During non-work hours, most people will still be indoors at homes, apartments, restaurants, and other indoor spaces and venues.
As time spent indoors increases, experts have started to study the ways in which it impacts our health, performance, and quality of life. Along with examining the effects on workers, scientists are studying how these spaces impact our well-being. Whether it be environmental impacts, impacts on business productivity, or impacts on urbanism and infrastructure planning, our indoor spaces massively affect society. This has birthed a contemporary movement of sustainable building design, reflected in the presence of “green buildings” and “healthy buildings.”
Developers, property managers, business owners and more are focusing on sustainable practices and having a building environment concentrated on tenant health and employee wellness.
What is a Green Building?
A green building, simply put, focuses on having sustainable systems for maintaining the building’s interior and exterior. The formal definition, designated by the World Green Building Council, is as follows:
“A building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.”
There are a variety of ways to meet this definition including the following:
- Efficient use of water, energy, and other resources
- Utilization of renewable energy like solar
- Use of recycling; reduction in waste and pollution
- Use of materials that are sustainable, non-toxic, and ethical
- Good indoor air quality
- Consideration of quality of life
There are a variety of benefits to this sort of green building including higher return on real estate, lower environmental impacts, and a work environment desired by employees. Real estate properties that are designated as green or sustainable buildings have seen an increase in asset value of 7%, while seeing operating costs decrease by 14% over a five-year span. Buildings earning LEED certifications decrease carbon emissions and improve energy and water efficiency. LEED-certified Buildings enhance energy efficiency and cut back on waste and water consumption. According to the Department of Energy, these buildings produce 34% less carbon dioxide emissions than non-LEED-certified structures. Further, green buildings consume 25% less energy, use 11% less water, and divert almost 80 tons of garbage away from landfills.
If these cost-saving and environmental measures are not enough to convince you to go green, then maybe the impact on workers will. Employees have a clear preference for working in green buildings, where they have ample access to sunlight, views of nature and other buildings, and contribute positively to the fight against climate change. This can increase the level of satisfaction among your employees and increase the productivity of your office.
While this sort of green building has existed since the 1970s, due to the United States’ energy crisis and increased awareness of environmentalism, it is becoming more and more prevalent in American culture today. As the awareness of climate change increases, so does the desire of builders and managers to go even further in the push for more sustainable and healthy buildings. Now, however, the focus is not just on cost-cutting or environmental protection, but rather on the positive impact it can have on a person’s wellbeing.
What are Healthy Buildings?
Healthy buildings place a high priority on the individual’s experience in a particular office or community space. The key factors of healthy buildings are:
- Indoor air quality
- Quality of water
- Ability to socialize
- Ability to exercise in the building
- Lighting quality
- Acoustics quality
Essentially, anything related to promoting a safe and healthy lifestyle for those who frequent the space, are important to determine a building’s “healthy” status.
For example, buildings that invest in an Indoor Air Quality Optimization System improve the quality of air through HEPA purification and environmental monitoring. In turn, employees will benefit from substantially lower levels of pollutants than in rooms without proper air filtration. Another common example of healthy buildings is the presence of a workout facility. While some occupants may not use the space, just the availability encourages exercise and a focus on wellness.
Physical health is not the only thing that will improve with the amenities offered in a healthy building. Productivity, whether due to less absenteeism or happier occupants, can increase with small improvements to indoor areas where people work or reside. In fact, healthy improvements to indoor spaces have shown a 26.4% increase in cognitive tests. These sorts of improvements can rally employee morale and comfort.
A person who is breathing clean air, getting natural sunlight, and moving throughout the day will be a more productive and happier version of themselves.
For more tips on how to create a healthy building, check out this article here.
There are numerous ways to improve the health or sustainability of your building. Some of these methods are quick and actionable, and some are more long-term and strategic. However, the benefits of a healthy building are undeniable. People are happier, healthier, and better at what they do.
If you are looking for a way to improve your building or business, consider taking the first step with the purchase of an air purifier from WYND. Higher levels of pollutants in air are proven to decrease productivity. WYND provides simple and easy-to-implement solutions that are available to any real estate or a business owner. Contact our team today, and we will be happy to help you on your journey of improving your indoor space, health, and productivity.