COVID Shines a Spotlight on the Link Between Building Health and Our Health
There has been a growing body of research that shows that buildings that are designed passively and sustainably—with plenty of natural daylight, ventilation, biophilia, and green materials—have a positive impact on occupant health, productivity, and satisfaction. This article from National Geographic though over three years old is still an excellent summary of the research behind, and the design considerations for healthy building best practices.
As a result more and more companies are invested in healthy buildings to realize the benefits of employee satisfaction, and retention, and best practices for healthier buildings have been incorporated into most building certification programs such as LEED, WELL, or fitwel. However, it took a global pandemic to thrust the importance of healthy buildings into the mainstream. COVID-19 has forced everyone who owns or manages a building to consider how their property protects occupants or is a major factor in getting them sick.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, what we breathe indoors is on average two to five times more toxic than what is typically outside because of poor ventilation and off-gassing of toxic chemicals from a host of products, from carpeting to furniture. Harvard University found long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with an 8% increase in the COVID-19 death rate. And we know 9 out of 10 people around the world already breathe polluted air.
A problem with building health clearly existed before COVID, but its impacts are now more deadly and well known. Many are stepping up to translate this increase in awareness to industry-wide action that executes building improvements that can not only save lives but also mitigate carbon emissions.
For example, The World Green Building Council’s global project, Better Places for People, has opened a discussion among its partners and members to share insights on how the built environment can prevent the spread of COVID-19 while improving the climate.
At VIBE, we are also doing are part. Together with Verdani Partners, we developed a robust library of COVID-safe building practices and recommendations that are available online, as well as free in-building signage that can remind and encourage people to occupy buildings safety and utilize measures, practices, or technologies that have been put in place. With these and other resources at people’s fingertips, we hope that we come out of this pandemic in a strong position to build back better starting of course with our buildings.