Editor's Letter

10/01/2014 | By Jennie Morton

Let Occupants Drive Your Green Goals

Jennie Morton Greener Facilities Editor

Energy efficiency and environmental impacts have long been cited as the main reasons for green building design. A lower utility bill is certainly attractive for any facility manager, but there’s one area of sustainable operations that consistently gets shuffled to the side – occupant satisfaction.

It’s easy to overlook the human factor in green operations, particularly when it’s difficult to quantify on a spreadsheet. How do you show that soft benefits such as occupant health, engagement, and productivity are just as important as payback or ROI?

It’s all in how you make your case. Virtually every aspect of green operations can positively impact workers – the trick is making those connections clear to company leadership.

Those energy-efficient LEDs? Better lighting can decrease eye strain and headaches. Need to replace office chairs? Go for ergonomic models and win big with employee satisfaction. Switching out some harsh cleaning chemicals? You could improve indoor air quality and reduce absenteeism.

You should also make these sustainable benefits clear to workers. A recent study showed that occupant satisfaction in LEED buildings declines over time. In fact, only 12 months after certification, the happiness levels of employees in a green work environment were the same as those in a traditional office space. While the authors suggest there are likely discrepancies between design and operations, I have another theory to add – occupants may simply be unaware of ongoing green efforts.

I routinely tour sustainable facilities and while organizations are proud to display a plaque or dashboard in their lobby, I always spy additional opportunities to bring awareness to occupants and guests alike.

On a recent building visit, for example, I pondered the soap provided in the restrooms – was it free of potentially harmful ingredients such as triclosan, artificial dyes, or parabens? How far does the soap travel before it reaches the facility? If the product has a green formula, is it verified by a third party?

Granted, the soap in your bathroom is a small consideration, yet it’s also a part of your operations that people engage with on a daily basis. Advertise your green efforts with small signs, monthly newsletters, or yearly progress reports – occupants should know sustainability is alive and well in your building.

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