Green workspaces have been appreciated and well-established over the past 15 years. On the other hand, physical space directly contributes to the performance and wellbeing of its users. As per a study by Harvard’s Center for Health & Global Environment on how green buildings positively affect health and cognitive function, cognitive function scores were better in green building conditions compared to that of conventional buildings. On average, cognitive scores were 61% higher in green building conditions and 101% higher in enhanced green building conditions.
It has also been established that green building design that optimises employee productivity and energy usage will require adopting energy efficient systems and informed operating practices to maximise the benefit to human health while minimising energy consumption. Green certification programmes, therefore, draw a long overdue focus towards analysing and reducing environmental impact.
One of the positive changes that have come about is that many material and equipment related recommendations have almost become a standard in today’s new office build-outs. Such examples, specifically contribute towards items that directly reduce the adverse impact on the environment, increased use of local material as well as recyclable and recycled content in the material used in office fit-outs. Furthermore, with increased inclusion of various green-friendly equipment, the OEMs for HVAC equipment have been able to bring in efficiency in pricing of energy efficient equipment by almost 10-12% over the past decade. LED-based light fixtures have become a standard inclusion in the ‘bill of materials’. Similarly, OEMs of low flow plumbing fixtures and fittings have seen an increase in cost-efficient product ranges.
More and more organizations, whether seeking a green certification or not, have been stressing on building energy efficient setups to help reduce environmental impact, energy bills, and instead focus towards the health and wellness of employees.
Wellness and health
The inclusion of energy-efficient systems has led to impetus on achieving improved health and wellness of a facility’s users. This has resulted in new specific certification programmes such as the 2014-launched WELL certification by USGBC. These are gaining prominence and are being adopted as a key part of the brief to build new offices. The aforementioned study by Harvard also identified “nine foundations of a healthy building” that directly contributed towards the wellbeing of occupants. These included air quality, lighting and views (which have also been part of the green drive) as well as dealt with a wider and deeper array of related aspects such as thermal health, moisture, noise, dust and pests, among others.
Wellness drives also promote the use of design elements that encourage activity such as easily accessible staircases and recreational areas. Along with this, ergonomic furnishings minimise discomfort and limit the development of chronic physical injuries.
Particularly in the Indian context, with increasing pollution levels, erratic climate patterns and rapid real-estate development, a green focus towards new infrastructural development and redevelopment of existing urban fabric needs immediate attention and action. While policies are being drafted and implemented, on-ground implementation is mostly seen as a reactive measure, which often proves out to be counter-productive.