Productivity gains are one of the major business case benefits of green buildings. Why is productivity so important in justifying green buildings? Consider typical annual building operations costs for people (salary and benefits), rent and energy. For example, a $60,000 per-year employee (salary and benefits) in an average space of 200 square feet will cost $300 per year per square foot. For commercial buildings, people costs are about 10 to 20 times greater than rent ($15 to $30 per square foot per year), which is in turn about 10 times greater than energy (about $1.50 to $3 per square foot per year). This result does not say that saving energy is not important, but rather that even a 1% gain in worker productivity will offset the entire annual energy bill.

Productivity gains from mixed-mode conditioning and natural ventilation systems.

Moreover, a 5% to 10% gain in productivity will pay for the entire rent on a building. So, if a green building costs 5% more than a conventional building, but has daylighting, views of the outdoors and healthy indoor air, those features will likely lead to a productivity gain of 3% to 5% or more — that has a value of $9 to $15 per square foot in the first year! In other words, for a corporate or institutional owner who can reap the benefit of the investment, the first-year return on investments is more than 100%. If the funds are available, that return makes the investment a no-brainer. For this reason alone, green building design more than pays for itself, even if there are higher costs. If a company can realize a 10% productivity gain from a green building, it pays to build a brand-new building for employees!

Furthermore, there are dozens of studies that link higher productivity to a number of the building's green features. These buildings are also linked to improvements in illness and absenteeism among employees. If employees are healthier and on the job more often, productivity gains are a direct result. A number of academic studies125 show gains in productivity from the use of mixed-mode and natural ventilation systems that average 7.4%.

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