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Study: People in green buildings think better, sleep better


Dive Brief:

  • Ongoing research on indoor environmental quality by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has established a link between improved cognition and sleep patterns for occupants of green buildings, The Guardian reported. The researchers link the gains to better lighting, thermal control, and ventilation.

  • Workers in certified green buildings scored 25% higher than workers in non-certified buildings when tested on their abilities to think and plan in normal work scenarios. Green office workers also enjoyed a 6% edge in measured sleep quality.

  • Researchers said technical aspects of building performance were not enough to explain the statistical difference, and identified a psychological "delight factor" that makes green building occupants happier, healthier and more productive.

Dive Insight

As building envelopes become tighter to increase air efficiency, clean tech design critics have questioned the health quality of enclosed ventilation systems. Notably, the recent Harvard research indicates an opposite effect, with green building workers experiencing a 30% decrease in the headaches, eye irritation and respiratory ailments identified as symptoms of so-called sick building syndrome.

The overall combination of improved somatic and psychological health of green building occupants is leading to development of a broader "buildingomics" school of productivity and wellness through design, according to the researchers. In addition to improving building energy efficiency, architects and building systems designers are looking at ways to boost worker productivity as a way to improve a salary line-item — energy efficiency — that can consume up to 90% of a building's overall cost, The Guardian reported.

Notable also are the results that prove out better human health and productivity in certified buildings as compared to buildings that have been constructed to meet energy performance goals but have not been certified. According to the researchers, green certified buildings included in the study were, on the whole, less humid than non-certified buildings. Occupants in certified buildings, therefore, were more often within a thermal comfort zone where productivity and wellness were optimized.  

This post originally appeared on our sister publication, Construction Dive. Our mission is to provide busy professionals like you with a bird's-eye-view of the construction industry in 60 seconds. To subscribe to our daily newsletter click here.