It is becoming more and more important for businesses who want to have their buildings green, that their buildings and interiors also need to have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of the occupants. This is why ergonomics in green buildings play such a big role.
The need to consider human factors/ergonomics in green building design has been recognised by the Green Building Council of South Africa as an industry standard by launching the Green Star Office Tool in 2008. The GreenStar SA Ofﬁce tool also encourages the design of a productive, healthy, and comfortable working environment through a focus on indoor environmental quality (IEQ). The factors that determine good IEQ are derived from multiple research sources, including environmental health (Evans,2003), environmental engineering (Heschong, Wright, &Okura, 2002), environmental psychology(Parsons, 1991), and environmental ergonomics (Hedge, 2000).
Credits that can also be obtained for the ergonomic lay-out of workstations and for the use of ergonomically certiﬁed furniture, ﬁttings, and equipment, are stipulated in the IEQ-8 Ergonomics.
The IEQ-8 Ergonomics Credit’s aim is to recognise and reward the choice of ergonomic equipment and design of space that promotes wellbeing, efficiency and effectiveness, essentially providing even more incentive for businesses everywhere to conform to the expected industry standard.
It is built up of 2 points, one point is awarded where equipment is deemed ergonomic where it fits the intended user population, and one point is awarded when the employees themselves are set up optimally at their workstations.
Before designing lay outs and purchasing required workplace equipment, it is recommended to seek professional ergonomic guidance. This is advised to ensure that companies will implement lay-outs and equipment that fit the employees to their tasks in a comfortable and efficient manner.
For example, many office chairs that are available on the market, may be labelled “green”, but they often lack one of the 5 basic ergonomic adjustment requirements, resulting in a poor fit for the user. On top of this it is not only the chair that makes an office workstation an ergonomical one. The interrelation between the user, his/her chair, desk, monitor(s), keyboards & mouses, etc needs to be evaluated in order to deem the fit-out ergonomically “correct”. The inclusion of accessories such as foot rests, laptop stands, and monitor arms, should be part of the standard fit-out of a work station, where the use of these is required.
A poor design and/or purchase runs the risk of not earning the company its ergonomic credits, but also exposing its workforce to an ill suited and potentially injury inducing workplace environment.
South African businesses are finally beginning to move towards a future that recognises the importance of employee workplace comfort and health and, with real tangible benefits now on offer to those who wish to reform their interior workplace design.