Trends in Designing Healthy Buildings

A healthy building exem­pli­fies a clean, pro­duc­tive atmos­phere and has a positive effect on its occupants as well as the envi­ron­ment. The chal­lenges in Designing Healthy Buildings are complex, yet the human­iza­tion of archi­tec­ture should not be con­sid­ered an unde­sir­able increase in con­struc­tion costs, but a return on invest­ment from decreased energy costs and increased occupant pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. According to an abstract published by the National Center for Biotech­ni­cal Infor­ma­tion (NCBI), many factors con­tribute to a healthy building which can be discussed from multiple per­spec­tives, namely:

  • Indoor air quality and con­t­a­m­i­nant risk assessments
  • Technical and social value of mixed-used communities
  • Efficient use of energy resources (both passive and active)
  • Envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty and chemical emissions
  • Durable con­struc­tion adding to the build­ing’s life-cycle
  • Social and emotional balance (green space, recre­ation, sunlight)
  • Col­lab­o­ra­tive layouts and com­fort­able communal areas

What Makes a Building Unhealthy?

The sick building syndrome’ (SBS) is a ver­i­fi­able and doc­u­ment­ed phe­nom­e­non in which building occupants expe­ri­ence negative health con­se­quence or higher levels of dis­com­fort linked to the time spent within a building. Most com­plaints center around indoor air quality (possible mold), but have also included poorly cal­i­brat­ed HVAC; insuf­fi­cient or overly bright lighting; and exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the vapor­iza­tion of con­struc­tion materials causing eye, nose, throat, and skin irritations.

Toxic building materials do con­tribute to a build­ing’s unhealthy status. Lead, PVC, mercury and some flame retar­dants are just a few. Lack of adequate ven­ti­la­tion can cause flu-like res­pi­ra­to­ry symptoms due to a buildup of dust and high levels of gasses emitted from some particle board products. From an envi­ron­men­tal stand­point, an unhealthy building can be one which thins natural land­scapes and depletes natural resources like the use of wood or natural stone. Metal mining, har­vest­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and disposal places an unhealthy demand on the envi­ron­ment also.

Construction Trends Supporting Healthy Buildings

Major trends in land devel­op­ment and new con­struc­tion are having a favorable influence on occupant comfort and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, incor­po­rate eco-friendly and energy efficient con­struc­tion materials, monitor and manage energy usage, and increase the build­ing’s life-cycle and return-on-investment:

1. Active Design and Con­struc­tion is a design trend in which the interior spaces of urban buildings support physical activity and health. This includes providing green space or glass atriums, con­ve­nient­ly located stairs, secure bicycle storage, fitness areas with showers, and site locations with above average walk­a­bil­i­ty scores (within walking distance to public trans­porta­tion, restau­rants, enter­tain­ment, etc.). Active design strate­gies maintain an under­ly­ing envi­ron­men­tal benefit; that is encour­ag­ing a healthy lifestyle will decrease employ­ee’s depen­dence on private vehicles. The result is less energy con­sump­tion and reduced green­house gas emissions.

2. Healthy Con­struc­tion Materials use advanced man­u­fac­tur­ing process and engi­neered materials to create building solutions that enhance thermal man­age­ment, reduce depen­dence on natural resources, are recy­clable and non-toxic, and increase comfort levels while main­tain­ing the struc­tur­al integrity of tra­di­tion­al materials and com­po­nents. The Bautex Block Wall System combines cement with expanded poly­styrene foam to form an alternate concrete masonry unit (CMU) for struc­tur­al exterior walls. The engi­neered blocks contain a minimum of 28% recy­clable materials, have a 4‑hour fire wall rating and offer a high-energy effi­cien­cy solution. The product also contains 0% VOC, does not dete­ri­o­rate and resists mold and rotting.

3. Smart Building’ Systems use automated processes to monitor and control energy usage, by managing peak demand usage when public utility fees are highest. A highly reactive com­mu­ni­ca­tions platform combined with energy sensors and acti­va­tors will con­tin­u­ous­ly collect data on a build­ing’s functions and usage. Every energy system is connected, monitored and auto­mat­i­cal­ly adjusted for optimum effi­cien­cy; security, lighting, thermal comfort, ven­ti­la­tion, water meters and pumps, fire safety, and elevators. The resulting healthy benefits include energy effi­cien­cy and savings, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains, and improved facility management.

4. Reducing the Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Unhealthy Problems Archi­tects and building owners are searching for new wall systems that are designed for the needs of today’s healthier buildings. Wall systems that are simpler to design and build with fewer and not more com­po­nents. The more com­po­nents the more chances for problems that can lead to health issues.

The Bautex wall system is an example of this type of inno­v­a­tive new wall system that is simpler, faster and better than tra­di­tion­al wall systems. Click here to learn more about the Bautex Wall System.