Does LEED = Indoor Air Quality?

25 Aug 2010

A recent study by four Michigan State University researchers concludes that moving one’s workforce from a conventional office building to a green building is not only good for the environment, it is also good for the employees’ health and work performance.  The research is based on two case studies in the Lansing area that found that moving to LEED-certified buildings contributed to substantial reductions in self-reported absenteeism, depression, stress, respiratory allergies and asthma.   The study also claims improved worker productivity as a result of perceived improvements in health and well-being.

Additional research must done, but I’m not surprised by the findings.  LEED-certified buildings can obtain points towards their LEED certification for indoor air quality measures.  LEED buildings also generally provide for healthier work environments through increased daylighting, the use of non-toxic building materials, improved air-temperature conditions, and others strategies. Plus, it wouldn’t shock me if the employees surveyed were excited about their new office and those good feelings could have slanted the survey results. The MSU research team seeks to validate their results with additional case studies and I will keep an eye out for their findings.

The study is interesting to me since some claim that one of LEED’s main drawbacks is its lack of factors relating to human health, particularly indoor air quality. Some critics point to the fact that one can obtain LEED-platinum (the highest level of certification) for a structure that earns no credits for air quality. One must also consider that the effect of many energy conserving design features (i.e., better sealed and insulated buildings) is a lower exchange between indoor and outdoor air – thus trapping the gases emitted by the chemicals which are so heavily used in almost all of today’s buildings materials.

So, is LEED really the panacea for indoor air quality?  Hopefully the MSU study and others will help answer the question.  In the meantime, if you work in a LEED-certified building, I’d like your thoughts on the matter.

Leave a Comment to “Does LEED = Indoor Air Quality?”

  1. Arthur Siegal 25. Aug, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    I suspect alot more of this somewhat non-scientific study was due to the “excitement” factor you note. Oftentimes, LEED certification is based on energy saving and waste avoidance and may not even include indoor air quality improvement. And let’s face it, who isn’t happier moving into something new? There’s a reason why people (particularly here in Detroit) “get” the idea of “new car smell.”

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