The productivity paradox in green buildings

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Mary Ann Liebert
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0)
In this paper we challenge the notion that “green” buildings can achieve greater productivity than buildings that are not accredited as “green”. For nearly two decades, research has produced apparent evidence which indicates that the design of a “green” building can enhance the productivity of its occupants. This relationship between building design and productivity is claimed to be achieved through compliance with internal environmental quality (IEQ) criteria of Green rating tools. This paper reviews methods of measuring productivity and the appropriateness of the metrics used for measuring IEQ in office environments. This review is supported by the results of a survey of office building users which identifies social factors to be significantly more important than environmental factors in trying to correlate productivity and IEQ. It also presents the findings of observations that were discretely carried out on user-response in green buildings. These findings demonstrate that, despite a building’s compliance with IEQ criteria, occupants still resort to exceptional measures to alter their working environment in a bid to achieve comfort. The work has been carried out on “green” buildings in New Zealand. These buildings are rated based on the NZ “Green Star” system which has adopted the Australian “green star” system with its roots in BREEAM. Despite this, the results of this research are applicable to many other “green” rating systems. The paper concludes that methods of measuring productivity are flawed, that IEQ criteria for building design is unrepresentative of how occupants perceive the environment and that this can lead to an architecture that has few of the inherent characteristics of good environmental design.
productivity, green buildings, post occupancy evaluation, internal environmental quality, questionnaires