Study Shows Green Office Buildings Don't Make Happier Workers

Have you ever wondered if you would be happier working in a LEED building? Wonder no more - a new study says no. Although the findings indicate employees are generally satisfied with working in green-certified buildings, they are no happier than they would be in a non-LEED building. The study, which contradicts previous findings, was conducted by Sergio Altomonte from the Department for Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham and Stefano Schiavon from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California Berkeley.

To arrive at this conclusion, data was collected through a web-based survey tool by the Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at the University of California Berkeley. In total, 65 LEED and 79 non-LEED buildings were selected to participate in the study. Building occupants were surveyed and asked to rate their satisfaction on a 7-point scale of 17 indoor environmental quality parameters, including amount of light, furniture adjustability, air quality, temperature, and sound privacy.

Previous studies, some of which used the same database to retrieve responses from occupants of the same office buildings, concluded that "green-rated buildings are characterized by higher occupant satisfaction, health, and productivity." So what caused this new study to diverge from its predecessors? 

Altomonte and Schiavon believe they arrived at a different conclusion for a number of reasons. Firstly, they used a larger sample size of LEED building occupants. Secondly, they gathered non-environmental information about occupants and building characteristics to ensure comparability between the two survey groups. Lastly, they considered individual responses rather than just average values and applied a different statistical approach to their evaluation.

When discussing the results, Schiavon pondered, “Does this mean that green certification is outdated, just costly or even useless? Certainly not, especially given the urgency of the environmental challenge and the fundamental role of buildings on people health and well-being, climate change and energy security.” Instead, Altomonte and Schiavon hope the existing LEED process will adapt to better accommodate occupant needs as a result of their study. The pair is now working on a follow-up report due in 2015 about the most effective LEED strategies for the improvement of office occupant well-being.

Want to learn more about LEED? Check out our infographic here.

About this author
Cite: Jennifer Whelan. "Study Shows Green Office Buildings Don't Make Happier Workers" 14 May 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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