This thesis is motivated by some of the author’s observations and building users’ comments in some of the highly rated green buildings in North America. The observations and users’ comments were collected earlier from buildings in Tucson (Arizona), San Francisco (California), Se¬attle (Washington), and Las Vegas (Nevada). Green buildings are very efficient in their consumption of energy, water, and natural resources; they also provide their occupants with a healthier and productive environment. However, the author’s observations and users’ comments are in accordance with the claims of some other studies: that the performance of highly rated green buildings is less than what is targeted by the concept of sustainability. This research examines green buildings from a human experiential perspective to explore factors involved in the perceptions and experiences of laypersons. The main objective of this research is to inform improvements and enhance the performance of green buildings.
This dissertation consists of two main studies; the first is qualitative, and the second is quantitative. The former explores influential factors in the perceptions and experiences of laypersons in green buildings through an ethnographic approach. The results of this study are used to support a theoretical framework for understanding the perceptions and experiences that laypersons have in green versus non-green buildings. The second study examines the preferences of laypersons in some experiential factors explored in the first study by aligning them with environmental design attributes of green buildings in a choice experiment. A choice-based conjoint analysis is used as the experimental design approach to reveal the relative importance of each design category for occupants of two buildings: a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified building, and a non-green building. Together, the two studies contribute to the green building and sustainable design literature through elucidating occupants’ perceptions of green buildings and highlighting the preferences of green building occupants in environmental and experiential factors of design. These findings introduce an interdisciplinary perspective to inform future research on improving the current green building rating systems by adding important dimensions related to the concept of sustainability.