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Workplace transformation: How Polish GBC is inspiring a nation of green & healthy offices

More and more companies, organisations and institutions are recognising the social, environmental and financial benefits of sustainable office design, boosted by the robust research in this topic that proves the indisputable link between buildings and their users’ health, productivity and wellbeing. Inspired by the WorldGBC’s global campaign Better Places for People, the Polish Green Building Council (PLGBC), an active member of this campaign, decided to provide the Polish market with more data and information on sustainable office spaces in Poland. We launched a task group that has produced a first of its kind report called ‘Zdrowe Zielone Biura’ (Healthy Green Offices).

Healthy, Green Offices Survey

In the survey we asked employees in Poland how they perceive their working environment. Satisfaction with one’s workplace is influenced by many factors, so the survey aimed to address this with three defined research areas.  Questions about office layout (including type of the workspace, biophilia, outside views, active design etc.), indoor environment (thermal comfort and ventilation, air quality, natural light access etc.) and location and access to amenities all contributed to the overall survey findings.

The response rate was very high, with more than 700 answers received from people working in different cities and towns in Poland, with the majority (79%) of them working more than 30 hours per week inside the building. There were 307 buildings analysed, of which 52% were built in 2007 or later. 38% of these buildings were either BREEAM or LEED certified. One interesting point was that only 27% of respondents correctly answered the question about their own building’s certification; indicating that building certification is clearly not known by the majority of occupants. It is important to highlight here the certification in Polish office sector is already a standard, as per PLGBC certified buildings database analysis, already 62% of Polish total modern office space is certified (BREEAM, DGNB, HQE, LEED and WELL).

The results were analysed using statistical tools to identify relationships between building age, certification or type of workspace. Correlations and trends were analysed to identify key findings; some of which are outlined below.

Headline Findings

1, Active design. 57% of respondents confirmed that their office design supports physical activity. Interestingly, there was a significant correlation between the activity levels and building certification. In certified buildings 64% employees confirmed that the office design supports activity, while in non-certified buildings only 17% gave such an answer.

2. Plants in the office. 54% of the employees were not satisfied with the number of plants in their workspace. There was a significant difference between answers from newer and older building occupants, suggesting that newer buildings tend to be better stocked with indoor plants which are enjoyed by the employees within.

3. Thermal Comfort. The majority of respondents confirmed that the room temperature doesn’t disturb in their daily duties, however 23% did report they find the internal temperature levels disturbing to their work. In certified buildings, more answers indicated satisfaction with the temperature. There were observed also gender differences: more women indicated temperature discomfort in their working environment.

4. Air Quality. Generally, the air quality in Polish offices is understood to be of good quality, however, only 44% of employees were satisfied with their office air quality. 28% directly complained about their office air quality, which still indicates substantial room for improvement. The difference between certified and non-certified buildings was very significant, with 60% of employees in certified offices satisfied with the air quality versus only 36% in non-certified office. This suggests that the certification requirements on indoor environmental quality have positive influence on the air quality. This was emphasized by the question about general indoor environmental quality, where 72% of employees in certified buildings were satisfied in comparison to only 54% in non-certified offices.

5. Acoustics and noise level have a key role in employee’s comfort and productivity. It was confirmed by the study that noise problems exist in a large proportion of offices, with more than a third of respondents reporting acoustic problems. Statistical analysis showed very little correlation between noise problems and building age or certification.

6. Cleaner transport. Almost half of the surveyed individuals uses public transport to get to their office. Public transport is the most popular among workers below 30 years old (67% use).

77% of answers indicated that they have building access to bicycle infrastructure, ranging from bicycle stands to changing rooms and showers. The study revealed that all certified buildings provide some form of bicycle facilities, with close to two thirds having full bicycle infrastructure.

The report was very warmly welcomed by the market and has been already cited in a range of different media. PLGBC intends to disseminate it widely, in both the green building network and importantly also amongst the general public audience to raise awareness of building impacts on health, comfort and work-efficiency. One of the biggest achievements thus far has been two articles fully dedicated to the report in two main Polish newspapers.

PLGBC, as an active member of Better Places for People campaign, wants to showcase the importance of buildings influence on people, so the next task group and report concerning this key area is under way.

Alicja Kuczera is CEO of the Polish Green Building Council. PLGBC’s report Zdrowe Zielone Biura’ (Healthy Green Offices) is available in Polish.

The findings from PLGBC’s report will be explored further at the 8th PLGBC Green Building Symposium on 4 October 2018 in Warsaw, Poland. For more information about the event and for the full agenda, visit