By Emma Berthold
The evidence that ‘green’ offices (click here) have a significant positive impact on the health and productivity of workers continues to mount.
We know that workers take fewer sick days, experience better health and work more productively in a workspace where buildings are designed, run and maintained with health and well-being in mind. Now, we also know that brainpower is better, too. Studies have shown that cognitive functioning is significantly better for workers in ‘green’ offices.
So what makes an office ‘green’? Having a low environmental impact is perhaps the first and most obvious factor that comes to mind, but from a health perspective, a lot of it comes down to having plenty of ventilation and air flow, low levels of chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the amount of carbon dioxide present in the air. Each of these can have their own effects on the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) of a building and, in turn, on our health.
A 2016 study tested the cognitive function of workers in simulated office environments: a conventional office environment that mirrored typical ‘non-green’ buildings, a ‘green’ low-VOC environment, and a ‘green +’ environment with higher ventilation rates.
Perhaps not surprisingly, workers performed better in the ‘Green’ and ‘Green +’ offices compared to conventional workspaces. On average, cognitive scores were 61 per cent higher on the Green building day and 101 per cent higher on the two Green+ building days than on the conventional building day. Specifically, the working environment had the biggest impact on participants’ crisis response, strategy, and information usage abilities.
The study also examined the effects of carbon dioxide concentration on cognitive function. Carbon dioxide is often viewed as an indicator of ventilation (and therefore, the overall indoor air quality) in a space. However, some recent research has suggested it should be viewed as a direct pollutant in its own right. Researchers found significant declines in cognitive function when carbon dioxide concentrations reached levels common in indoor spaces (approximately 950 parts per million). A separate study also showed that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations affected purely physiological factors such as heart rate....
The science is correct. Air quality is important to quality of life, even in office spaces. Offices and factories are huge offenders of VOCs in the air. INDOOR AIR QUALITY is paramount to employees that feel well and perform their jobs better.
"Low maintenance plants to help with air quality." (click here) These plants can adorn desks, shelves or flood space. Basically, "Bring a plant to work" quality of life. A little nurturing might go a long way in high stress work environments.
Carbon dioxide can become toxic when it is in higher concentrations than normal. The air has to be safe for people to think and work. In contained spaces, like office buildings, air quality can become imbalanced. Just because the air outside in the courtyard is great doesn't mean the air inside is the same. Ventilation is very, very important and HVAC systems carry brevity in indoor air quality, but, when that alone doesn't solve the problem add plants and water falls that will effect air filtration and water vapor/moisture/humidity.