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LEED Certification and Occupant Satisfaction

In every building we design, we work with all of the stakeholders involved to capture the full scope of operational requirements, from technology and space needs to everyday movements, as well as employee health, wellbeing and productivity. This means sitting with the staff whose work productivity and job satisfaction depends on functional designs.

Recently, we have come across misleading headlines discussing how design requirements are not meeting employee expectations in LEED versus non-LEED certified buildings. A recent study titled, “Influence of factors unrelated to environmental quality on occupant satisfaction in LEED and non-LEED certified buildings“, published in the April edition of the Building and Environment journal was the catalyst for these media stories. The study draws conclusions suggesting those working in LEED certified office buildings are no more satisfied with their workspaces than those who work in conventional office buildings.

The title of the study, and the study itself, reflect what we have known all along: buildings work best when they are designed for the people who use them.

Researchers surveyed 21,477 individuals in 144 office buildings mostly based in the United States of which 65 are LEED certified. The results showed workplace satisfaction within LEED certified office buildings appears to decline over time. It’s possible one reason for this decline is due to the fact that a large component of LEED certification is focused on the materials used within construction, as well as building efficiency and maintenance – not the productivity of the occupants.

While LEED specifications will dictate some design requirements, they should not be the only factors that influence design. As a firm that specializes in institutional design, we understand the best designs start with even better data. It is not uncommon for institutional architects to spend 10 to 12 months assessing and capturing the current and anticipated requirements of new construction, additions, or retrofits of current buildings or structures.

It’s important readers understand the process behind architecture and workflow planning before jumping to conclusions about occupant satisfaction. If you have any questions about LEED principles or Evidence-Based Design, feel free to contact us anytime.

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