Better building design worth £20bn to GDP

New research carried out by Atkins and Imperial College has found buildings more thoughtfully designed around people's needs could improve performance and help to tackle the UK's productivity gap. Application of better design in this way can boost productive output by 5-8%, contributing up to £20bn in addditional GDP, twice the value of the UK's aerospace industry, the research reveals.

More thoughtfully designed workplaces, centred around people’s needs, could improve performance and help tackle the UK’s productivity gap.  Applying design thinking to boost workplace productivity by 5-8% could contribute up to £20bn to GDP.

Atkins commissioned the research to better understand and quantify the economic benefit from human centred design (HCD). Researchers have examined the ripple down effect on productivity brought about by an HCD focus on health and wellbeing and its knock-on benefits for business growth and the national economy.

According to Atkins, the research underlines the importance of employees’ experience of the building in which they work. It identifies six key areas where different approaches could be taken. A return on investment in these areas can be achieved within two to six years through increases in productivity. Some araeas were shown to bring payback within six months, Atkins says. 

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

The findings come amid growing scrutiny of the UK’s productivity versus other countries. Recent figures show productivity in the UK continues to lag behind the levels seen before the financial crisis.

Philip Watson, design director at Atkins design director, Philip Watson, said: "This research underlines the incredible potential of human centric design. It puts employees’ productivity and wellbeing 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."