The Power of Design Strategies: Driving Health, Building Wealth

How overhauling light and air circulation systems resulted in over $4 million in organizational returns
May 9, 2023 9:05 AM ET

By Liz Peters

When HKS Chicago updated its office’s circadian light and air circulation systems, the assessment that followed went beyond ceilings and walls.

HKS embraced an integrated design process, leveraging workplace design, daylighting and the associated LED lighting systems and controls. They also adopted a displacement ventilation system that delivers air through diffusers, enabling them to improve indoor air quality, save on energy, address noise and enhance comfort. The team evaluated performance and impact of these enhancements. A triple-bottom-line analysis resulted in finding an estimated net present value of $4.6 million–advancing human health and performance while staying cost neutral.

On a recent IWBI webcast, Tommy Zakrzewski, Ph.D., Director of Building Engineering Physics, HKS Chicago, shared how they were able to take an integrated approach, with health at the forefront of their thinking, to drive a major return on investment. The HKS story echoes the webcast theme, Investing in Health Pays Back: The Growing Research Behind the Business Case for Healthy Buildings and Healthy Organizations. The webcast explored how research can be used to inform and strengthen the business case for investing in health.

For more insights, hear Tommy in his own words:

"…And what we discovered is that there is a nice payback with [installing a high-performing system that saves on energy], where we’re able to evaluate not only the economic benefit, the environmental, but also the social aspect.

“So we did a triple bottom line analysis of [those WELL concepts] and strategy to understand, ‘How does that affect our business case?’ And because we’re able to show a payback period within the lease time of our Chicago office, it became a standard prototype for all of our other offices going forward, where we don’t even have to go through the study again, saying, ‘Well, are we going to realize the benefit?’ We’ve already done the research that it does.

“And… in our research study that net-present value that we did on a triple bottom line was a valuation of $4.6 million dollars in our office space of 15,000 square feet. That is a tangible metric that not only do we use internally to change our enterprise organization in terms of how we evaluate real estate office space internally, but we share that data with developers, which is really fun, right?

“So, now we’re changing the game and leaning into the data and research that we have to show the economic values to developers to change the game on how they approach it. One single strategy really opened up our eyes in terms of the full economic value…”

Watch the webcast.

View original content here.