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Can Green Buildings Make Us More Productive?

A recent study found that workers in LEED-certified buildings were more productive and less prone to absenteeism.

LEED certification 

(Photo Credit: Grand Canyon NPS/Flickr)

Researchers from Michigan State University conducted two case studies among office workers in East Lansing, Michigan. In the first study, 56 workers moved from a conventional office building to a platinum LEED-certified building; in the second, 207 workers moved from a standard building to a silver LEED-certified building. Both case studies showed that, after moving to LEED-certified buildings, workers reported "reductions in perceived absenteeism and work hours affected by asthma, respiratory allergies, depression, and stress and to self-reported improvements in productivity."

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. In order for a building to be LEED-certified, it must undergo review by the U.S. Green Building Council. The USGBC assigns LEED ratings by measuring the building against several categories, including impact on ecosystems and water resources, water efficiency, sustainable building materials, and indoor environmental quality.

Planet Green points out that this study might address a concern that some environmental researchers have had about LEED certification: namely, that it usually focuses on the toxic environmental impact of building materials and processes, rather than the effects on the people who live in said environments.

The MSU researchers indicated that the findings "indicate that green buildings may positively affect public health," but acknowledged that the results were based on self-reporting and perception. In other words, it's possible that green buildings contribute to health because they're healthier environments, but it's also possible that workers experienced gains because they expected to feel better in an LEED-certified office.

Only time and additional research will tell if green office buildings equal more productive workers.

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