Thursday, 16 April 2015

Healthy Space for Healthy People

By David Lázaro Rodrigo
Energy and Sustainability Consultant, at CBRE

Workplace Costs - Source CBRE

The biggest outlay for most commercial property occupiers is the cost of staff. In fact, it is estimated that 86% of operational cost is spent on employee salaries and associated benefits. Break this down and the space provided, particularly its quality, is of upmost importance. Simply, the workspace has a direct impact on productivity, talent retention and levels of absenteeism. 

In recent times, we have moved from individual offices occupied by suited executives to common areas connected by cutting-edge technology, where space collaboration incorporating sustainable practices is encouraged based on activity and not hierarchy. As a result, initiatives to improve the air quality, the functionality of lighting systems and the heating are being increasingly adopted. In the longer term, this can also reduce operating costs due to energy efficiency gains. The knock on effect is twofold, a more energy efficient building and a healthier, more engaged workforce.

On the subject of employee engagement, there is direct correlation between employees’ health and well-being and the productivity of the offices they work in.  Unproductive offices tend to have the incorrect composition of humidity, temperature, organic compounds such as dust, or other factors such as the presence of bacteria, fungi, mould or even rising damp.  In a ‘worst case’ scenario Sick Building Syndrome - a set of symptoms and health conditions present in individuals due to their regular presence in a building – can arise. Depending on the imbalance of factors, the biological systems (immune, nervous, endocrine) of those exposed to overly artificial environments can be altered. These factors can be managed through a combination of appropriate materials, systems and building management. In essence, a well-designed, well ventilated and maintained workspace reduces the toxic risk and will help achieve a healthier and more productive workplace environment which is imperative given staff occupancy costs.

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