09 November 2017

The impact of sustainable building design on wellbeing and productivity

Sustainability is not only about reducing our global carbon footprint; it is also about improving how we live.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a ''Declaration on Occupational Health For All,'' which addressed the impact that the built environment has on our wellbeing and overall health. Since its publication in 1994, occupational health has grown to become a more important conversation among health professionals, architects and building owners alike.

The indoor climate

To turn buildings into a positive agent for human wellbeing, Lara Muller, CEO and co-founder of the Blue Building Institute, notes there are seven key elements to consider that relate to both the design and management of spaces:

  1. Indoor air quality
  2. Light
  3. Comfort
  4. Access to water
  5. Nourishment
  6. Mind
  7. Fitness

These elements are essential to ensuring the health, vitality and productivity of occupants.

The effects of acoustics

Acoustic impact is one of the most important design factors in healthy buildings. Electronics, HVAC systems, mechanical equipment and other noise-emitting devices, as well as other people talking and working, can be major sources of indoor noise. As Robert Lacey, a British Historian writes, ''Of all the varieties of modern pollution, noise is the most insidious.''
Continuous exposure to noise, even as low as 75 dBA can negatively impact a person’s health. For example, it can impede motor skills and intellectual function, and increase heart rate and blood pressure. A building should not be considered sustainable if it does not protect people from unhealthy noise exposure.

The importance of quality indoor lighting

Quality of lighting is another element of indoor environment that can affect everything that we do. Beyond aiding vision, light has a direct effect on the area of our brain, which acts as a stimulant to keep us alert and able to perform better cognitively. One study from the University of Oregon found that a workplace environment with better daylight and views took 6.5% fewer sick days.

Sustainable building design

In recent years, indoor environment and wellbeing have been a thriving initiative among interior designers. Realizing the impact that healthy buildings have on people, architects and interior designers have begun including sustainable strategies into their construction and building materials, seeking to stabilize the value and lifecycle of the building.

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