Understanding the return on investment (ROI) of combining energy efficiency and natural light
Life needs light, but most of us are not getting enough of it. In fact, the EPA reports that we spend up to 90 percent of our time inside our homes, cars and in buildings.
Binge watching, more food delivery options and the fact that we’re spending an average of 8.8 hours a day at work every day are adding to the problem. That’s why many employers are looking for ways to engage employees—and boost their moods—by enhancing their work environments. And some are finding success by adding more natural light and energy-efficient technologies to the mix.
Enter the Era of Healthy Buildings
For the past decade or more, we have spent a lot of time as an industry talking about the importance of energy efficiency in buildings. We’ve built smarter building systems and elevated window technologies to a point that it is possible to enjoy the benefits of daylighting while remaining efficient.
There’s plenty of data detailing how efficient buildings can save on energy costs, but now we’re seeing that the benefits are far greater than just that. There’s a definite correlation between access to natural light and several work and wellness benefits:
- Health. One third-party study conducted by a professor at Cornell University for View looked specifically at the health benefits of adding dynamic glass that optimizes natural light in spaces, while reducing solar heat gain and glare. The results from 313 office workers revealed 56 percent less drowsiness, 63 percent fewer headaches and 51 percent less eyestrain. The same study also showed that workers with access to outside views and natural light were 2 percent more productive—the equivalent of an additional $100,000 of annual value for every 100 workers.
- Happiness. Another recent study detailed in Harvard Business Review placed access to natural light and views of the outdoors as the No. 1 desire for 1,614 North American workers. Forty-seven percent of employees surveyed felt not having access to natural light made them feel tired and 43 percent said lack of light made them feel gloomy at work. On the flipside, proximity to natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, was associated with a 15 percent increase in wellbeing and creativity, and 6 percent higher productivity.
- Productivity. Similarly, the COGfx Study commissioned by United Technologies and conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, indicated that combining optimal air ventilation and energy-efficient technologies improved productivity to the tune of an 8-percent increase in employee decision-making performance and productivity.
Benefits to Building Owners
For tenants, the benefits of energy-efficient technologies that support daylighting will have a lasting bottom line effect on employee wellbeing and engagement as supported by the research listed here and more. But for building owners, there must be a compelling reason to invest in upgrades. And the good news is there are plenty of business benefits for them as well.
One study published in the Journal of Portfolio Management examined 58 million square feet of North American offices with the goal of quantifying the benefits of green building practices beyond operating costs. It uncovered that green building upgrades had a positive impact on rent premiums, occupant satisfaction, lease renewal rates and more.
- Net effective rents, including the cost of tenant incentives, average 3.7 percent higher in LEED-certified properties in the U.S. than in similar non-certified buildings.
- Occupancy rates during the period studied were 18.7 percent higher in Canadian buildings having both LEED and BOMA BEST certification, and 9.5 percent higher in U.S. buildings with Energy Star certification than in buildings without certifications.
Tenants and building owners can see real ROI when it comes to taking advantage of energy-efficient technologies that promote optimized natural light. The green building market has matured, and we are only beginning to realize the benefits smarter building technologies can have on enhancing occupant health and wellness and boosting happiness and productivity.
As a fenestration professional, it’s up to you to stay educated on these growing trends to seize the potential opportunities coming your way.
For additional reading, I recommend checking out the growing WELL Building Standard developed by the International WELL Building Institute that can work in conjunction with other green certification programs, but is focused exclusively on the ways that buildings can enhance health and wellness of occupants.
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