Do LEED-certified buildings result in more productive workers?

Contrary to previous studies that have indicated that worker productivity, health, and overall well-being increase in green offices, a new study by Stefano Schiavon of UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment and Sergio Altomonte of the University of Nottingham’s Environmental Physics and Design Research Group concludes that most office workers do not experience a higher level of workplace satisfaction when working in LEED-certified buildings.

The study concludes that LEED-rated buildings provide higher satisfaction in open spaces rather than in enclosed offices, in small versus large buildings, and to occupants having spent less than one year at their work space. The study suggests that the value of LEED certification for employees decreases over time, and that greater significance to worker satisfaction is given to office layout, distance from windows, building size, occupant age and gender, and the amount of time spent at the office.

This study may help design professionals defend against breach of contract claims related to the design of LEED-certified buildings. In one claim from our claims database, for instance, a tenant, lured by LEED publicity that promised “healthier and more productive occupants,” paid a premium to rent space in a Silver-certified building. When he noted that employees were using a greater number of sick days, complaining of eye strain and drafts, and reducing their work output, the tenant demanded rent rebates from the owner based on false promises of a healthful workplace and increased productivity. This led the owner to sue the architect for breach of contract, which was followed by the tenant also suing the architect for negligence resulting from poor indoor air quality.

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