Are green buildings delivering on the promise of improved occupant satisfaction?

Over the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of buildings that integrate green building, maintenance and operational practices.  Many of the drivers to support such initiatives have included:  reduced energy consumption, lower emissions, reduced impact on the natural environment and improved occupant satisfaction.  With many buildings now fully occupied and operational, are green buildings resulting in improved occupant satisfaction?

One recent study examining occupation satisfaction with the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in LEED and non-LEED certified buildings examined this very question.  Schiavon and Altomonte (2014) examined 144 buildings (65 LEED-rated) resulting in over 21, 477 individual responses (LEED-building).  Through an on-line survey through the Center of the Built Environment (CBE), the authors examined the difference in occupant satisfaction between those in LEED and non-LEED buildings.  What made this study unique is that it tried to examine IEQ as it relates to non-environmental factors, such as by size of building, type of work, age, gender, time spent in workspace, nature of work, weekly work hours and design of the overall work space.

Findings of the study revealed that occupants in LEED buildings reported higher levels of satisfaction with the overall air quality and building maintenance, regardless of non-environmental factors.  It may be no coincidence that these are items that individuals can receive specific points for under the IEQ category within the LEED certification rating system.   But when factoring non-environmental factors into the review, specifically for those working more than one year in the space or greater than 30 hours per week, there was very little difference in occupant satisfaction between LEED and non-LEED buildings for  amount of light, comfort of furnishings, amount of space, furniture adjustability, visual comfort, noise, temperature and sound privacy.

As ergonomists this provides us with an opportunity to promote the integration of pilot credit 44 “Ergonomics strategy”, since the credit supports a better understanding of the task needs of the occupants working within the space.  As more buildings are proposed and constructed, this study highlights that more attention must be given to the indoor environmental quality – and this includes ergonomics considerations – in order to ensure that occupant satisfaction, health and productivity is truly improved in LEED buildings.


Schiavon, S. & Altomonte, S. (2014).  Influence of factors unrelated to environmental quality on occupant satisfaction in LEED and Non-LEED certified buildings, Building and Environment, 77, 148-159.