From: John Alker, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published September 29, 2014 09:57 AM

Connecting Productivity of Office Workers and Climate Change

Energy efficiency in office buildings struggles to gain the attention of top management, writes John Alker - because energy is too cheap to really matter. But with 90% of operating costs spent on staff, a new report shows that green building design makes employees happier and more productive.

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There would seem to be no connection between the productivity of office workers and the great challenge of climate change. But a report published by the World Green Building Council suggests otherwise.

Globally, buildings are responsible for around a third of greenhouse gas emissions through their construction, operation and demolition. The humble office has therefore found itself on the front line of efforts to reduce energy use and combat climate change over the last 10-15 years.

But despite the IPCC showing that there is more potential for cost effective carbon mitigation in buildings than any other sector, a recent International Energy Agency report suggested we have tapped into less than 20% of this potential. 

As world leaders convened this week to yet again agree that we need to take action on carbon emissions, it's a valid question to ask how on earth we are going to have any success when we don't seem to be able to do it in one of the easiest, most economical sectors.

People costs versus energy costs - 90:1

Part of the answer to that question is that - like it or not - energy does not cost enough for most office-based organizations to worry about, often representing just 1% of operating expenses. So energy efficiency often fails to get traction at board level.

Staff costs are another thing altogether - typically responsible for 90% of operating costs, with the remaining 9% going on rent.

This means that small improvements in employee health, sense of wellbeing and resulting productivity are of tremendous value to employers. Poor mental health alone costs UK employers £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence.

What is really tantalizing, and at the heart of our report, is the prospect of low carbon buildings positively enhancing health, wellbeing and productivity of occupants.

It follows that if you can reliably quantify the human benefits of low carbon buildings, this provides a much more compelling return on investment than at best modest savings on energy bills.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.

Office space image via Shutterstock.

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