UK output could rise by the equivalent of £20bn, Atkins-commissioned report reveals

UK productivity could rise by 8% – equivalent to an extra £20bn in GDP – if workplaces are created using what researchers call ‘human-centred design’ (HCD).

Atkins, which was recently bought by Canadian consultancy giant SNC Lavalin, commissioned a study undertaken by Imperial College London to examine what it called “the ripple down effect on productivity brought about by an HCD focus on health and well-being”.

Getting the building right can make all the difference to how productive its occupants are, Atkins said, while the payback on investment in the six key areas it identifies (see box below) could be achieved “in as little as six months”.

Productivity is a big problem for the UK economy with recent government figures showing that domestic output per hour worked was 15.9% below the average for the rest of the G7 advanced economies in 2015, marginally higher than the 15.8% lag recorded in 2014.

‘Healthy’ buildings are becoming increasingly common as firms recognise the economic benefits.

In the US, the WELL Building Standard, the world’s first performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, is well established.

The formula is now making its mark in the UK, as clients recognise the boost to productivity that can be wrought from operating in premises designed with the health of employees in mind.

Atkins’ design director Philip Watson said the latest research underlined the incredible potential of HCD.

“It puts employees’ productivity and well-being at the forefront of building design. Finding ways to boost productivity and strengthen GDP is even more important amid the growing challenges facing parts of the UK economy,” he added.


Six key areas to help improve productivity and worker well-being

Lighting - improving daylight provision and the quality of artificial lighting
Ventilation/air quality - increasing ventilation flows and reducing Volatile Organic Compounds and carbon dioxide
Thermal comfort - including solar overheating in the working environment and enabling an individual to control the temperature of their immediate space
Noise and acoustics - reducing environmental noise (roads, etc), white noise (air conditioning systems, etc) and pink noise (human voice frequency)
Interaction - increasing the control and self-determination of the office environment including control of lighting, ventilation, physical desk setup and chosen setting
Visual elements - including plants and outside views, nature and materials