The Business Of Keeping People Healthy

Posted in Indoor Air Quality on November 23, 2016


Surely, there can be no more important professional task than keeping people healthy, happy and productive. And that is exactly what our industry is supposed to do.

Our unglamorous and under-publicised role in maintaining building services systems plays a crucial part in making sure buildings are as comfortable and decontaminated as possible. Ventilation hygiene and its links to indoor air quality (IAQ) in particular is crucial to any health and safety programme designed to protect building occupants.

However, it has always been a difficult to measure and assess the effectiveness of our efforts. We can check the cleanliness of the ductwork and look at how well the air conditioning and filtration systems are working, but often these calculations are carried out in isolation – separate from the central maintenance strategy for the building – making it difficult to build up a complete picture of the overall ‘health’ of the indoor environment.

More work is now being done in this area in a bid to create methods to measure ‘wellness’ and, therefore, establish the social and economic impact of our professional efforts. A recent example is a new study from the world famous Harvard University in the US, which established that people who work in “certified green buildings” enjoy better sleep quality; respond more quickly to challenges; and have fewer sick building symptoms than those in non-certified buildings.

Performing

The research – carried out in 10 separate buildings – showed that employees in these buildings, which have generally higher spec services, had 26% higher cognitive function test scores than those in similarly high-performing buildings that were not green certified.

The UK Green Building Council seized on the report’s findings to challenge British employers: “Major employers in particular should take note - do you know what impact your workplace has on your own workforce?” asked UK-GBC’s campaign and policy director John Alker.

“Not only does this report emphasise that a building's design impacts the health and wellbeing of the people using it, it supports the business case for pursuing a green building, which can help deliver those productivity outcomes. Better for people, better for the planet, and better for the bottom line.”

BSRIA has also produced a free to download topic guide on the subject of wellbeing designed to give people an introduction to the subject. It considers the impact of factors like thermal comfort, noise and indoor air quality.

“A building should be a safe place that responds to basic human needs while meeting the occupants’ psychological and spiritual needs,” said BSRIA’s Sustainable Building Consultant, Dr Michelle Agha-Hossein. “A ‘well’ indoor environment supports the occupants to thrive and happily perform to their optimum ability.

“As the industry is trying to optimise energy performance of buildings in terms of their installed services and fabric, it is essential to also consider how well buildings can increase the energy capacity of their occupants and help them to better control and spend the human energy that they have.”

Our work in maintaining and cleaning ventilation systems is an important part of any ‘wellness’ equation. In the developed world, we spend at least 90% of our time indoors so anything we can do to improve the health of the indoor environment will have a significant social and economic impact.

TG10/2016 ‘At a Glance’ – Wellbeing can be downloaded for free from the BSRIA website: BSRIA topic guides.


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