Constructing Excellence supported research shows high CO2 concentrations in offices are decreasing people’s cognitive capability.

Constructing Excellence

Office temperature and humidity levels are also key factors that undermine people’s productivity and wellbeing.

We all instinctively know that poor office conditions lead to dissatisfied, unproductive and unwell building occupants. However, until now the relationship between indoor environmental conditions and productivity has been largely studied in the laboratory.

The research:

Whole Life Performance Plus (WLP+) is a £530,000 three-year study, with funding support by Innovate UK and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that looked at people’s performance in real world environments. The research reveals how office environments can dramatically undermine people’s wellbeing and productivity.

Between February 2017 and October 2018, the WLP+ project monitored two office buildings that represent UK working conditions – one modern and one older building.

Workers from the two case study buildings took proofreading, numerical, and Stroop tests in a variety of indoor temperatures, CO2 levels and Relative Humidity conditions. Workers undertook a total of over 7,850 surveys and tasks to complete the analysis. The lessons learnt were applied in another ultra-modern building.

The findings:

The research found that when CO2 levels were lowered, people completed the tests dramatically faster and scored better:

  • Test scores improved by up to 12%
  • Where test speed was measured in one building, people worked 60% faster in lower CO2 concentrations, taking a mean of 8.2 minutes to complete a test in low CO2 concentrations, compared with 13.3 minutes in modest CO2 concentrations.

The implications of this ground-breaking study are dramatic. Previous studies1, 2 have shown that UK productivity can be improved by between 2 and 3.5% by optimising workplaces, which equates to £40 – £70 billion of additional output to the UK economy.

About the WLP+ Project

The Whole Life Performance Plus (WLP+) project brings together a consortium of leading experts in building performance, property development and facilities management. LCMB Building Performance Ltd. and Low Carbon Building Research Group of Oxford Brookes University are co-leads on the project. The WLP+ solutions have been tested in office buildings managed by Argent (developer) and EMCOR UK (facilities management) and those owned and occupied by King’s College London. Throughout the project, findings have been disseminated by the British Council for Offices and Constructing Excellence.

Don Ward, Chief Executive, Constructing Excellence said:

“This research proves that workplaces which are optimised for indoor environmental conditions enable workers to perform at higher levels. It demonstrates a route for organisations to use their built assets and workplaces to enhance their performance and that of the UK.”

1The Stoddart review (2016)

2 BCO(2017) Defining and measuring productivity in offices

Download The full CE and BCO WLP+ PROJECT REPORT – 29 November 2018: “Improving Productivity in the Workplace – lessons learnt and insights from the Whole Life Performance Plus Project”