It's long been said that a happy worker is a more productive worker. But what goes into making workers happy? Several experts in the field of green building say the design of the building itself can contribute to boosting employees' moods, increasing productivity and aiding in employee retention."Green building is good business. Green building certifications attract tenants, employees, even students and help to keep them... People want to work in green buildings, and comfortable, happy workers are more productive workers," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, who provided the keynote address titled "People, Planet and Performance" at the recent Carrier Global Engineering Conference in Las Vegas.
In addition to creating happy workers, green buildings result in life-cycle savings of 20% of the construction costs, according to Fedrizzi. Like Fedrizzi, the event's keynote speakers said there is a direct correlation between increased productivity and employees who love being in their work space.
Buildings can play an important role in an employer's goals to attract and retain the best people.
"People feel good when they feel connected to nature," said Robert F. Fox Jr., AIA, partner at Cook+Fox Architects and Terrapin Bright Green LLC, a leader in the green building movement and an advisor to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
Let There Be Daylight
Fox discussed his work at the Bank of America building in New York City during a luncheon address entitled "Biophilia: The Instinctive Bond between Humans and Nature," and said how a building feels - literally — can impact worker productivity. Providing plenty of access to daylight with floor to ceiling windows and using natural materials like stone, wood, leather and glass throughout the space are keys to "rethinking how we do buildings."
With the number one complaint in buildings being the temperature - too hot or too cold - Fox said something as simple as providing employees with temperature control for their space can make a big difference.
"Buildings can play an important role in an employer's goals to attract and retain the best people," Fox said.
Numerous studies have shown the impact of biophilia, a concept that promotes the instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems, can impact everything from a patient's recovery period to increasing sales at a leading national discount chain, according to Bill Browning, keynote speaker and principal of Terrapin Bright Green.
"The body knows the difference between real and fake nature," Browning said. "Static is not good. We need that variability; we need that change."
What does biophilia mean for green building? Browning said there are various levels of bringing nature into a space from gardens and living walls to using natural materials, such as wooden doors, large windows and nature artwork, to designing the nature of the space - or creating a space that is compelling and exhilarating. Valentine Lehr PE, of Lehr Consultants International, in his keynote emphasized that engineers play a key role in adoption of innovations into the built environment.
Carrier's 11th Global Engineering Conference convened a global audience of approximately 900 attendees from 20 countries and 40 states to create dialogue on the latest in green building technologies, sustainable design and engineering practices.
"It was good to hear the big picture about what is happening in green building, and then attend the workshops, which were more applicable to what we do every day," said Monte Sturdevant, P.E., senior vice president of esd/Engineering Systems Design, an Arizona-based firm focused on designing energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems for more than 20 years. "There was not a sales pitch. It was all focused on what is happening in the industry."
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