Green office, workplace,
Office workers walk through a green lit foyer of an office building in Melbourne.Reuters

A research conducted in the US reveals that people working in green buildings tend to think and sleep better. The reasons behind the improved performance are factors like good lighting, ventilation and heat control.

This is the first study, which suggests that appealing designs are likely to make the workers turn more productive and happy. It also states that the tenants of green buildings turn brainier.

A rise has been observed in the numbers of green buildings being constructed by the developers, after finding the health and cost related benefits.

The research was conducted on green-coloured buildings in five American cities. The workers at these offices were compared to the employees of the same firm in the same cities.

"We saw higher cognitive function scores for workers in green certified buildings, compared to their counterparts in buildings that were still high performing, but which had not achieved green certification," Joseph Allen of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

The employees working in the green buildings were found to score 25 percent more in a regular test, which was conducted using a Sims-like computer game to evaluate the planning ability and thinking of the workers.

"The tool assesses complex decision-making performance, which mimics the real-world decision making that all of us encounter every day in our normal work routine," Allen added.

Special watches with sensors were used to calculate the sleep of the workers, the length of the sleep, the turning and tossing along with the interruptions were analysed. It was found that the employees working in green-coloured work places had scored six percent higher than the other employees.

"I think this is one of the most provocative findings in the study - it suggests that buildings impact us after the eight hours we are in there for our work day," Allen explained.

Not just this, the employees working in green buildings showed lesser symptoms of sickness like headaches, respiratory and eye irritation. The green buildings were found to have better air ventilation which resulted in lower levels of carbon dioxide content as well as lesser content of chemicals produced by carpets and furniture, which are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A previously conducted research found that by the Harvard group found that this leads to improved performance by the workers by thousands of dollars a year and also enhances their cognitive scores. This also increases the efficiency of the workers and a deduction in the leaves taken by them is observed.

The green offices were also found to be better lit with more daylight, which resulted in improving people's rhythms and sleep. These benefits were clearly evident in this research, though the statistical analysis did not explain how the factors like light, heat control and ventilation helped in improving the performance of the workers

"We see this additional, building-level effect. There is absolutely a psychological as well as a physiological impact of being in better buildings and I think they are both critically important," Allen said.

"It is very interesting and useful research. The causes [of the improvements] may need to be investigated further, as they may not be simply what they measured. There are perhaps softer things, like design and even beauty - the "delight factor" - which can't be measured," added Marcella Ucci, an expert at University College London.

Ucci also noted an important thing that in this study, the green certified buildings were compared with other buildings that were still of a good standard. "If they had compared with lower quality buildings, the differences might have been even bigger," Ucci said.

Buildings were built worth trillions of dollars over the last five years, out of which one- third of the amount was spent on constructing green buildings.

"The adoption of green buildings was not higher because decisions were not being taken at a high enough level in organisations, meaning the costs to the facilities department were not compared to the economic and health benefits elsewhere in the company," Allen said.