NO, it is not always just about saving the environment. Green buildings with ergonomic office designs also improve your employee’s well-being and productivity.
However, given the novelty of green buildings in Malaysia, the conversation today merely revolves around the environmental footprint of our built environment by using benchmarks such as energy and water usage.
The dialog has yet to establish a public discussion that green buildings are designed to stimulate one’s interaction with his personalised working environment, hence increasing productivity. Then again, a study which surveyed 154 green buildings with 534 samples across the United States found that 54.5% agreed that workers were more productive in green buildings while 45% reported employees had 2.88 fewer annual sick days (1).
The effectiveness of a green office space is evident, at least in the office of IEN Consultants located in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Knowing that the carbon footprint of commuting to work alone contributes more than two-thirds of the total office carbon footprint, staff are encouraged to use a low-carbon transportation mode to work.
This includes some Brompton foldable bicycles that complement the public transport system along with a retrofitted shower room available at the office. Besides, there are also two Yike Bikes, the most compact foldable electric bikes for commuting to nearby meetings and afternoon lunches.
Basic waste management in the office such as reusing both sides of the paper and also sorting plastic and paper waste into the recycling bin are also practised. Reusable plastic containers are used for takeaway orders instead of non-biodegradable polystyrene packaging. The usage of the water filtration system in the office avoids the need for high logistic carbon footprint concerning bottled water supply. Instead of conventional aluminium air supply ducts, the office uses silent fabric air duct that has zips for easy washing to facilitate clean air.
There is also an isolated napping room for staff to either rest or take a power nap. Most interestingly, CO2 neutral flights are a way of life here, meaning the carbon emission for working trip flights are compensated through clean development mechanism monetarily and possibly a tree planting project that the company is looking into at the moment.
Effective use of daylight
The office allows the ample flow of daylight into the interiors. A good green office should be designed to encourage the occupants to interact with nature’s elements, also called biophilic design. A comfortable view of the outdoor perimeter planter boxes and skyline is essential to connect the building occupants to the external weather outside.
The use of horizontal venetian blinds and removal of suspended ceilings allows deeper daylight penetration into the office space. Roller blinds with external reflective coating are fixed to windows facing the east and west to reduce glare.
Nevertheless, staff can actively adjust the manual sun shading blinds throughout the day to suit the current daylight condition. Due to the usage of daylight and low energy lighting design, the IEN office only uses 3% of electricity as compared to conventional office spaces designed to code compliance.
Personalised environment for higher productivity at lesser cost
A personalised and flexible office space allows an employee to optimise his working environment which will maximise his level of productivity.
The use of ergonomic office chairs and an adjustable table height with electric motor allows staff to work in the most optimised posture. Each table is also equipped with task lights and mini USB-powered fans, which encourages staff to control their level of lighting and thermal comfort environment without the expense of significant additional energy usage.
Up down light fixtures are used to illuminate both the ceiling and desk areas which ensure visual comfort to the office space.
Benefits of going green
As much as how these green features may seem attractive to you, there is a misconception on the expense of greening the office in terms of the return value as it is difficult to stick to an exact figure for this. However, this can easily be economically justified even by a modest increase in the productivity, as the bulk of the operational expenses is the salary paid to the employees (2).
The same research mentioned also discovered that the increase in monthly productivity translates to a net impact of approximately RM70 per employee. If you consider the benefits in terms of recruitment, retention of employees, less sick days and greater productivity, the answer for the choice of a green office is irrefutably clear– that green offices also mean healthier and happier spaces for your employee to work in.