Michael Bleby Reporter

Michael writes on emerging markets, architecture and engineering. He has served as a correspondent in Tokyo, London and Johannesburg and has written for Reuters, the Financial Times, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Going green can be profitable

Published 12 April 2012 05:03, Updated 12 April 2012 08:36

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Does being green make money? Norman Disney & Young’s global director for sustainability, Tony Arnel, says it does.

“A lot of companies are starting to realise it is about providing spaces which have got good air quality and that improve health and well-being but CEOs are starting to work out that it’s good for the bottom line,” Arnel says. “People are more productive as well.”

Measuring that productivity, however, is hard. There are no universally accepted ways to do so in relation to the infrastructure of a building and reported improvements in most work to date – such that shown in a study carried out for developer Brookfield Multiplex between 2009 and 2011 – rely on perceptions of greater productivity by a building’s users.

Still, according to the study done by the University of NSW/University of Technology Sydney, not only did the 2800 workers moved from a standard office building to a so-called high performance building feel more productive, they were happy to work in less space. The new building gave a 20 per cent saving in net lettable area.

“The typical allocation is 12 square metres per person in an average office environment,” says Australasia sustainability manager Lauren Haas. “It’s currently running at 10 square metres, if not eight.”

General manager for sustainability, safety and environment at Sydney-based Investa Property GroupCraig Roussac, which publishes data on the energy consumption and usage of buildings it owns, says one of the best ways to infer greater levels of staff productivity is when complaints about features that affect them directly – such as air-conditioning – decrease.

“You can imagine there’d be a lack of productivity with discomfort,” he says.

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