The health benefits of green buildings revealed

As 90% of our time is spent indoors, the indoor building environment plays a critical role in our overall well-being and holds an enormous ability to either positively or negatively influence our health. In this blog post, we explore the impact indoor environmental quality has on the cognitive functions of the people living in the buildings.

By definition green building design focuses on eliminating the impacts of buildings on the environment and human health through reductions in energy usage, water usage, creation of healthy indoor environments and minimization of environmental disturbances.

While the benefits of reduced energy and water consumptions have been well-known and well-documented for several years, the potential human health benefits of green building design have recently been discovered and investigated.

Linking green buildings to cognitive performance

A ground-breaking study, conducted at Syracuse Center of Excellence in collaboration with Harvard University, Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University among others, stimulated indoor environmental quality conditions in Green and Conventional buildings to evaluate the impact on the cognitive functions and performance of office workers.

The study took place in an environmentally controlled office space (SyracuseCOE’s unique Total Indoor Environmental Quality lab), where 24 participants spent 6 full work days, blinded to test conditions.

During this time period, the participant experienced indoor air quality conditions found in conventional buildings, green buildings, and green buildings with enhanced ventilation.

Cognitive scores were 101% higher in enhanced green building conditions

The cognitive function was measured for nine functional domains including basic, applied and focused activity levels, task orientation, information seeking, crisis response, information usage, breadth of approach and strategy.

During the study, the largest impacts and improvements were found in the areas of crisis response, strategy and information usage:


In addition, when researchers looked at the effect of CO2, which normally isn’t considered as a direct indoor pollutant, it was discovered that for seven of the nine cognitive functions tested, average scores decreased as CO2 levels increased to levels commonly observed in many indoor environments.

Implications for Facility Management professionals

To take advantage of the linkage between cognitive performance and green building design, organizations need to take a strategic approach towards sustainability, employee health and well-being.

To become proactive in sustainable ways of working, facility management providers have an opportunity to expand the niche of their expertise and to become an advisor on how sustainability and green building design pay off in the workplace strategy in every individual case of their clients.

Facility management providers will have to analyze indoor environment challenges and consequences on supply and value chains, as well as on building design, management and maintenance.

Would you like to know more about, workplace design and how it impacts employee productivity? Read our blog post: Biophilic Design – the best kept secret of a great workplace or download our Vision 2020 White Book: New ways of working – the workplace of the future.

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