Healthy Building Syndrome

In the July – August edition of Greenbuild, the focus was on whether or not green buildings, specifically, LEED certified buildings are in fact healthier than non-LEED buildings. Intuitively, one would think that this must be the case.

The problem with most claims is that they have to be supported by data. As noted in one article, Fox News ran a headline that stated “Green Buildings, Hazardous to your Health?” Unfortunately, what Fox did was look at weatherization and sealing up of buildings as the limitation on what green means.

Of course, this is a gross misstatement with regard to what a green building actually means. Green buildings are not just energy efficient. Green buildings look at the entire spectrum of the building and all aspects of the building’s operation.

Green Building Fresh AirIndeed, in most of the LEED ratings systems, Indoor Environmental Quality is a major component of the building scoring system. People are encouraged to healthy and environmentally safe finishes and to think about the building as a breathing entity.

As a breathing entity, fresh air is critical. That is what makes the Fox News story nonsense. A super efficient building can still have a significant amount of fresh air pumped through it without losing energy. In other words, the building systems are looked at as they relate to one another.

The key here is that data on whether or not people do better with healthy indoor air is a bit harder to quantify. It is easy to say a building has sick building syndrome…more people out, more sick days, respiratory complaints.

But, when a building is healthy, it can be harder to say that people work or learn better, are healthier, etc. There are some studies that support the positive, and as I stated initially, intuition, or common sense would support this.

Unfortunately, the naysayers and luddites that support building as usual will take little facts and create big stories that have little bearing on reality.

My vote is for a healthier building.

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