Making the connection between green buildings and occupant health (USGBC Colorado) | U.S. Green Building Council
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Posted in Sponsored

USGBC Colorado partner NORESCO puts data into practice for occupant health.

As the marketplace evolves, we are seeing a shift in focus from solely providing high-performance buildings to looking toward the ongoing health of occupants. Performance metrics and data are needed to demonstrate the relationship between green buildings and occupant health.

Revealing the evidence

Industry-leading health and building experts from leading institutions sought to find the link between indoor environmental quality and cognitive function with a focus on occupant decision-making performance. "The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function" study, also known as the COGfx study, placed 24 participants, over the course of six full work days, in an environmentally controlled office space of fluctuating ventilation conditions ranging from conventional office buildings to green buildings and green buildings with enhanced ventilation.

The study yielded noteworthy results, demonstrating:

  • An 8 percent increase in employee decision-making performance equates to as much as approximately $6,500 equivalent in improved productivity per person each year.
  • The increased productivity is 150 times greater than the resulting energy costs.
  • 101 percent higher cognitive performance scores in green buildings with enhanced ventilation when compared to conventional buildings.
  • Crisis response scores were 131 percent higher; strategy scores 288 percent higher; and information usage. scores 299 percent higher in green buildings with enhanced ventilation when compared to conventional buildings.

The COGfx study, supported by NORESCO’s parent company United Technologies Corp., produced peer-reviewed evidence for the connection between green building and occupant health.

Designing for occupant health

As with with USGBC's LEED rating system, performance-based rating systems embrace addressing the health of building occupants through measures and standards that enhance human physiology. In each of these rating systems, projects can earn simultaneous certifications that connect green building and occupant health through certification of the built environment.

The WELL Building Standard (WELL), in particular, takes a data-based approach, as it analyzes the physical environment of a building through performance verification measures and prescriptive standards within categories such as interior air quality to determine the wellness impact on building occupant health.

As supported by data-driven studies like the COGfx study by Harvard, architects, designers and sustainability consultants can have a direct effect on worker productivity through occupant health factors such as ventilation effectiveness, air quality, water quality, active design, natural environment connections and thermal and noise comfort.

Putting data into practice

As diligent research continues to support the importance of this shift in the industry, the connection between green building and occupant health is one that we welcome. With NORESCO’s knowledge of emerging performance-based rating systems, we work with clients to implement these systems and continue to be at the forefront of the occupant health and green building movement.

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