LEED Certification and the Pilot Credit 44 – Ergonomics Strategy by JE Sleeth, Kartik Vyas, Carrie DeMaeyer OPC Ergonomic Consultants
With every new building, new design, redesign, renovation, purchase of new furniture and equipment there is an opportunity for your business to have a positive impact on both the environment and the occupants, end users, clients and visitors.
During the last 15 years in Canada & the US there has been an increasing focus by the architectural and design, construction and furniture companies on green design practices. The LEED or Leadership in Energy, and Environmental Design building certification system in North America is a certification system which rewards construction and renovation projects which add infrastructure for energy and resource efficiencies and lowered indoor air pollutant emissions. Results over the last number of years finds the LEED certified buildings are not significantly more expensive to construct but are significantly more efficient to operate. These buildings also have higher occupancy rates, tend to be of higher quality and provide more amenities for the occupants, clients and visitors.
Our research findings having worked with clients after a move into a newly certified LEED building or newly renovated building is that occupant and end user satisfaction remains mixed at best. This is in part because up until March of this year there were no ergonomic or accessibility components in the LEED certification process to assess how a building affected occupant health and performance within the building.
In March of this year the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) released the Ergonomic Pilot Credit for LEED. The intent of the credit is to “promote healthy, comfortable and productive work by designed the workplace to accommodate its users”
Pilot credit 44 – Ergonomics Strategy is applicable to a number of the project types including: New Construction, Schools, Retail, Healthcare, Commercial Interiors, Retail, Commercial Interiors and Existing Buildings: Operation & Maintenance. Considering the fact that over a 30 year lifespan a building’s initial capital costs will account for 2% of the total costs associated with it, whereas occupant salaries account for over 92% of total costs the fact the human element has not been considered in the LEED process is incredible.
If your business has an ergonomic process in place which is in writing and practiced as a formal process with measured outcomes this will be a good start in the moving towards being certified under the Pilot Credit 44. The inclusion of Job Demands Analysis for all major job types will gain an understanding of the work to be performed within the workplace; understanding the intended building use and occupants, future workflow and space requirements all contribute to ensuring architectural designs reduce barriers towards the occupants being able to access, work in, interact with or visit the building and space. Having the ergonomic process consider the airflow, lighting, mechanical systems as well as technology use and placement of technology ie. how will technology be interacted with all forms part of the formal LEED certification process under Pilot Credit 44. Involving the ergonomic expert before decisions are made about furniture, equipment, computer use and interactions represents best practice in terms of an ergonomic program as well as part of the points system for LEED. There is a strong emphasis on the development of training and education programs for the occupants and visitors as well as the request for feedback from occupants and end-users at many points in the design, renovate/build, purchase phases of the project.
Every new design project, re-design, renovation, equipment & furniture purchase in North American retail, commercial and business spaces has the potential to include customers, end users, occupants and visitors or has the potential to exclude and to not be healthy or safe in ergonomic terms. With the additional benefit of gaining LEED points with the Pilot Credit 44 for Ergonomics, it is incumbent upon Facility Managers, HR Managers, Architects, Designers and Constructors to ensure they hire the expertise of experienced Ergonomic design experts at the start of the project (after the fact will not lead to any points being awarded in the LEED system and leads to high cost retrofits and designs/equipment specific to an end user’s needs).