Can Energy Efficiency Increase Worker Productivity?
Efficiency upgrades can reduce your energy bills, but can they help improve employee performance, too?
Energy efficiency measures can reduce your operating costs and your impact on the environment, but the upfront expense is often a barrier to implementation. To justify the cost, it makes sense to evaluate the potential financial benefits. Despite this, productivity is rarely considered in financial impact analysis of energy efficiency projects. That can be a mistake.
A report by the International Energy Agency concluded that the value of the productivity and operational benefits can be up to 2.5 times greater than that of the energy savings. Including such productivity improvements in financial assessments, the report found, can in some cases reduce the payback period from four years to one.
What the research says
The impact of energy efficiency projects on worker productivity can be difficult to measure. However, a number of studies have demonstrated that such improvements can also help increase productivity.
The World Green Building Council sponsored a study, The Business Case for Green Building: A Review of the Costs and Benefits for Developers, Investors, and Occupants. It estimated worker productivity increases of 23% from better lighting, 11% from better ventilation and 3% from individual temperature control.
A study by the University of San Diego and the C.B. Richard Ellis Group found that tenants in green office buildings experienced increased productivity and fewer sick days. Survey respondents reported an average of three fewer sick days per year, and 55% of respondents reported improved productivity. The research included 154 buildings with more than 3,000 tenants.
The University of Pittsburgh quantified the energy-saving and productivity benefits of a cement manufacturer that moved from its old plant to a new LEED-certified facility with a variety of energy-efficient features. Results showed that productivity in the new plant increased by 25% while energy use intensity fell by 30%.
Although a growing body of evidence suggests that substantial productivity gains can accompany improvements in energy efficiency, more research is necessary to obtain accurate estimates for specific types of projects.
What you should do
Efficiency measures provide benefits that go beyond your energy bills. To start realizing those benefits, take these steps.
Conduct an energy audit of your facility. A qualified energy auditor will inspect your facility and operations and provide a targeted set of cost-saving recommendations.
Hire a qualified professional to inspect and clean your HVAC system. Indoor environmental quality and comfort has a significant impact on employee performance. If your system is older or in need of repair, consider upgrading to a new high-efficiency system.
Upgrade to LED lighting. LEDs are not only more efficient than commonly used fluorescent lamps; they offer improved light quality. This will enhance visibility and your overall indoor environment. LEDs are also inherently dimmable, making them a perfect fit for daylighting controls, which can help you create a more inviting (and productive) work atmosphere.
For long-term savings, form a team to establish an energy management program in your organization. The program should focus on identifying and implementing energy efficiency measures, tracking progress and publicizing successes.