Hidden benefits of a ‘green’ building identified
For ArthaLand Corp., the developer behind Cebu Exchange, a 38-storey office building that is the first in the Visayas and Mindanao region to be registered under the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program as well as in the Philippine Green Building Council’s Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) rating program, “green building” is not a simple development trend.
“It is an approach to building suited to the demands of its time, whose relevance and importance will only continue to increase. There are numerous benefits to green building: environmental, economic, and social,” said ArthaLand president and CEO Angie de Villa-Lacson.
But more than anything else, Lacson believes a green building’s human impact is most important.
A World Green Building Council (WBGC) paper showed that if the human benefits of green building could be reliably quantified, it would prove beyond all doubt the return on investments for building green.
Considering that staff costs, including salaries and benefits, typically account for about 90 percent of business operating costs, what may appear a modest improvement in employee health or productivity can have a huge financial implication for employers, according to WGBC. This is many times larger than any other financial savings associated with an efficiently designed and operated building.
There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that the design of an office impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.
Indoor air quality (IAQ): The health and productivity benefits of good indoor air quality are well established. This can be indicated by low concentrations of carbon dioxide and pollutants, and high ventilation rates.
It would be unwise to suggest that the results of individual studies, even meta-analyses, are automatically replicable for any organization. However, with this important caveat, a comprehensive body of research can be drawn on to suggest that productivity improvements of 8-11 percent are not uncommon as a result of better air quality.
Thermal comfort: This is closely related to IAQ, and indeed separating out the benefits is difficult. However, the relationship is clear, with research demonstrating that thermal comfort has a significant impact on workplace satisfaction.
Suggesting a general rule about the size of productivity gains is not a robust exercise because of the importance of specific circumstances and the lack of comparability between studies. However, studies consistently show that even modest degrees of personal control over thermal comfort can return single digit improvements in productivity. The importance of personal control applies to other factors too, including lighting.
Daylighting and lighting: Good lighting is crucial for occupant satisfaction, and our understanding of the health and wellbeing benefits of light is growing all the time. It can be difficult to separate out the benefits of daylight—greater nearer a window, of course—from the benefits of views out of the window.
Several studies in the last decade have estimated productivity gains as a result of proximity to windows, with experts now thinking that the views out are probably the more significant factor, particularly where the view offers a connection to nature.
- Biophilia: The rise of biophilia—the suggestion that we have an instinctive bond to nature—is a growing theme in the research. A growing scientific understanding of biophilic design, and the positive impact of green space and nature on (particularly) mental health, has implications for those involved in office design and fit-out, developers and urban planners alike.
Noise: Being productive in the modern knowledge-based office is practically impossible when noise provides an unwanted distraction. This can be a major cause of dissatisfaction amongst occupants.
Interior layout: Noise distraction relates closely (although by no means solely) to interior layout. There are a whole range of fit-out issues that can have an effect on wellbeing and productivity, including workstation density and configuration of work space, breakout space and social space.
These factors influence not just noise but concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Many companies instinctively know this and regularly engage in exercises to optimize layout. However, the research that informs this remains less quantifiable and needs to be further developed.
Look and feel: The same could be said about research around office “look and feel”, which is seen as superficial by some, and yet should be taken seriously as having a potential impact on wellbeing and mindset—both for occupier and visiting clients. Look and feel (and interior layout), being highly subjective, is something which is likely to be experienced differently by people of different age, gender and culture.
Active design and exercise: A guaranteed route to improved health is exercise. This can be encouraged by active design within the building, and access to services and amenities such as gyms, bicycle storage and green space, some of which may be inside the office building or office grounds, or in the local vicinity. There is not a huge amount of research on the link between exercise and office-based productivity, although that which does exist suggests a lower number of sick days for those who cycle to work.
Amenities and location: The local availability of amenities and services are increasingly recognized in research as being important for occupiers.
Childcare in particular can be the difference between working and not working on a given day, and in the relatively few studies that have tried to quantify it, the financial impact for employers has been significant.
The developer of Cebu Exchange, which will soon rise along Salinas Drive at Cebu City’s IT Park, is not only seen to contribute at least P7.2 billion in annual income for the projected 40,000 IT-BPM employees of locators that will choose to hold office in this project.
Considering that this project is set to follow both the US LEED program as well as the BERDE rating program, Cebu Exchange is expected to exhibit high marks for all the attributes mentioned.
“Certified green buildings benefit both the landlords as well as the tenants. Cebu Exchange is designed to be resource and operations efficient and to provide healthier working environment to boost productivity and profit. Based on reports by global industry analysts, larger companies prefer to locate in green buildings because of these reasons,” Lacson explained.
To ensure resource efficiency for the building’s locators, Cebu Exchange will feature green elements such as efficient building envelope, water efficient plumbing system, low-energy air-conditioning system, efficient lighting system, use of low-emitting materials, and allocation for Low-Emitting and Fuel Efficient Vehicle (LEFEV) parking.
With Cebu Exchange’s strategic location, the project is well connected to the rest of the community, thus requiring less use of motorized vehicles.
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