The phenomena of green workspaces has been appreciated and well-established over the last decade and a half. On the other hand, physical space directly contributes to the performance and well-being of the users. A study was done by a team from ‘Harvard’s Center for Health & Global Environment’ on how green buildings positively affect health and cognitive function. An extract of the results of this study shows that the cognitive function scores were better in green building conditions compared to the conventional building conditions. On an average, cognitive scores were 61 percent higher in green building conditions and 101 percent higher in enhanced green building conditions. Also, it has been established that green building design that optimizes employee productivity and energy usage will require adopting energy efficient systems and informed operating practices to maximize the benefit to human health while minimizing energy consumption.
The green certification programs stepped-in to draw a long overdue focus towards looking both beyond and within the real estate expansions to analyze and improve impact on the environment around and effect on the users within; the green drive now has set in its roots as a standard in most of the new developments.
Green – Now, a standard building block
As a positive change introduced by this drive and how the users welcomed these initiatives, it has been witnessed that many material and equipment-related recommendations brought-in by this drive 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, use of local material and increased use of recyclable & 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’ (also with incentivized push, it received from central and state governments). Similarly, OEMs of low flow plumbing fixtures & fittings have seen increase product portfolio/range with cost-efficient ranges made accessible for widespread use.
More and more organizations, whether seeking a green certification or not, have been stressing on building energy efficient setups to help contribute towards the environment, reduce energy bills, and renewed focus towards the health & wellness of their employees.
Wellness & Health – taking the podium
With the inclusion of the energy efficiency system having almost become a standard, an increased focus is being seen towards achieving improvement in users’ health and wellness. This has also given birth to new specific certification programs such as WELL CERTIFICATION by USGBC, launched in 2014. These are gaining prominence and are being adopted as a key part of the brief to build new offices for the organization. As part of the study conducted by Harvard, they identified ‘9 Foundations of a Healthy Building’ all directly contributing towards the health & well-being of its occupants. These include several heads, which always have been part of the green drive, such as Air Quality, Lighting & Views, but deal with a wider and deeper array of other related items such as Thermal Health, Moisture, Noise, and Dust & Pests among others.
The wellness drive also promotes the use of design elements that promote and encourage activity such as easily accessible staircases and recreational areas. Along with this, ergonomic furnishings minimizes 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.