Going to work could improve your health?
The terminology of the “sick building syndrome” has been around for decades, but who believes that office building design and construction should actively improve human health and wellbeing.
Three years ago, an American public benefit corporation called the International WELL Building Institute launched a set of best practice standards for the construction of healthier buildings.
The institute’s ratings system involves judging a built environment against seven distinct “concepts”. And guess what number one is.
No prizes for guessing “Air Quality”, because it is the obvious number one. The total list is:
• air quality
• water quality
• nourishment. Eg, the sort of food available in a staff canteen
• fitness .Eg, how well the building’s design works to promote exercise
“We spend 90 per cent of our lives indoors,” says Rick Fedrizzi, the institute’s chief executive.
“The way that the building respects us as human beings, to give us superior air quality, give us the right amount of light, making sure that the materials around us are non-toxic, that we have good encouragement to eat better and exercise — ultimately all that drives better sleep and drives us into the next day of a higher level of performance”.
‘Green’ vs ‘Well’
“A building that is ‘green’ is ideally a building that has sought to use the least number of resources in its construction, but also in its ongoing operation,” says Matthew Francis, a research industry fellow at RMIT. “It’s trying to be as energy efficient as possible.”
But that, he points out, doesn’t necessarily equate to a building that will be pleasant to work in.
Fresh air is easy – or is it?
The introduction of copious amounts of fresh air has been the old age solution to manage the ‘air quality’. But this has a large impact on cost efficiencies, green ratings and sustainability requirements especially where the average ambient temperature or humidity level is more than 10% either side of the optimum human comfort level.
So the age of pre-treatment of fresh air is on us. We cannot deny the need for quality indoor air, by exhausting odour, humidity and indoor contaminants and replacing it with nature’s oxygenated, clean and fresh air.
But balancing the energy of the conditioned exhaust air with the unconditioned incoming fresh air, and filtering outside contaminants before they reach the conditioning system is now the design norm for Mechanical Consultants. These two imperative aspects of design require significant consideration and investment, so as to satisfy both ‘Green’ and ‘Well’ perspectives.
Consultants now have access to air solution providers. Armcor Air Solutions has been in the HVAC industry for over 30 years and partners with consultants and contractors to solve the energy recovery designs connected with the pre-treatment of fresh air.