With the release of LEED V4, the latest version of its green building rating system, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is addressing two major components of health: indoor air quality (IAQ) and material transparency.
The former is not a new concept in buildings. According to Navigant Research’s report, Indoor Air Quality Monitoring and Management, global revenue associated with IAQ is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of close to 9% between 2013 and 2020.
As for material transparency, addressing the environmental impacts of chemicals and materials in buildings – and their corresponding health effects – could be a game changer. By partnering with UL Environment, USGBC will make available Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for equipment and materials used in buildings, making transparent what chemicals are near and around people in buildings.
And not a moment too soon. At the Greenbuild conference in New Orleans, Professor Andrew Whelton of Purdue University presented his findings that polyethylene pipes used for water conveyance in green buildings have been leaching chemicals into the drinking water – above minimum standard levels. Plastic pipes are used in green building construction because they use less embedded energy in their production and transportation, relative to traditional metal piping. The direct health implications are not clear from Professor Whelton’s findings, but they certainly provide evidence that the chemical makeup and leaching potential are components worth tracking in buildings that are supposedly environmentally friendly.
Better Buildings = Better Business
Another point of the building-health connection was released in a report by the World Green Business Council, a partner organization to USGBC. The report, Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices, starts with the overarching premise that the most expensive part of any building is its inhabitants, accounting for up to 90% of operating expenses (it’s not clear if this estimate holds true throughout the developing and the developed regions of the world). The report analyzes the associated health implications of building siting, design, and operations on qualitative and qualitative metrics like occupant health outcomes, well-being, and perceived benefits, as well as organizational and corporate financial outcomes. For example, an office environment that forces employees to walk around can improve their overall health, reducing absenteeism and physical complaints. Another example: a 2011 article in the journal Indoor Air indicated that relative to standard temperature baselines in an office, employees were 4% and 6% less productive at cooler and warmer temperatures, respectively.
Greenbuild also hosted Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak. Rear Admiral Lushniak challenged the audience to design preventive healthcare into the built environment, making healthy buildings the default, rather than a specialty. He also advocated for a “Blue Movement” focusing on human health, like the Green Movement addresses sustainability and environmentalism. Rear Admiral Lushniak ushered the concept of integrating health into building design, function, and operations for the green building community with passion.
Tags: Building Systems, Conferences & Events, Energy Efficient Buildings, Greenbuild, Smart Buildings Program
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