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Better thinking, better health in green-certified buildings

Featured in our recent report on healthy, green offices, the COGfx study 2 showcases how green-certified office spaces are also good for the health, wellbeing, and productvity of workers. 

By 2050 nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. This means more buildings will be needed, and buildings already consume 40% of global energy. Clearly, the future of buildings and the future of sustainability go hand in hand.

So how do we accelerate energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, green building? We make it about people. It’s not as easy as it sounds. While great data exists that documents how green buildings lower energy use or save water or promote environmental sustainability, the data has been pretty thin about how green buildings improve health, personal performance and productivity – that is until now.

This is important because while inspiration will spark the green building movement, it’s the data that will sustain it.

A landmark study released just last year by Harvard University demonstrated in a laboratory setting that cognitive function test scores doubled for people who work in an optimized green building setting. This was significant because it demonstrated positive benefits of green buildings on the health and productivity of their occupants.


But it gets better. At Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles, Harvard released data from a new study that reinforced their earlier findings.

In the new COGfx Study 2 by Harvard (COGfx is shorthand for your brain’s cognitive function), employees in high-performing, green-certified real buildings showed 26 percent higher cognitive function scores compared to those working in high-performing buildings that were not green certified. The employees in green-certified buildings also saw the following benefits:

• 73% higher crisis response scores;
• 44% higher applied activity level scores, which reflect ability to gear decision-making toward overall goals;
• 38% higher focused activity level scores, which reflect capacity to pay attention to tasks at hand; and
• 31% higher strategy scores

This can accelerate the green building movement by further defining the value – and need – to build sustainably. The data is growing that green buildings are not only good for the natural environment, they’re good for people. That’s a powerful combination.

Data drives decisions. With this new data about the health and productivity benefits of green buildings, better decisions can be made about the infrastructure for our growing cities. Our health, and the health of our planet, depends on it. It’s a good thing we know that sustainability works.

To read more about the Harvard COGfx studies, click here. To tell me what you think about sustainability, tweet me @JohnMandyck.

John Mandyck is Chief Sustainability Officer at United Technologies Corporation.

Primary support for the study came from United Technologies and its UTC Climate, Controls & Security business; UTC is a member of the WorldGBC Corporate Advisory Board.