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Buildings and Health Impacts

When designing a new building for a client, do you consider the health impact of the building? According to a new study released last month, nearly three quarters of architects say the health impacts of buildings are influencing their design decisions. This finding matches a strong market demand by building owners, who two-thirds of those surveyed reported that health considerations affect how they design and construct buildings.

The study, "The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016," was done by Dodge Data & Analytics, in partnership with Delos and the Canada Green Building Council, and participation by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the World Green Building Council (WGBC), among others.

The study goes on to show that the U.S. design and construction industry is poised for wider adoption of building practices that prioritize the physical, mental and social well-being of tenants and occupants, while also finding that building owners are starting to see the business benefits such as increased leasing rates and higher asset values.

AIA CEO Robert Ivey, FAIA, noted that as a society, we spend nearly 87 percent of our time indoors. "Designing and constructing 'healthy buildings' is crucial to our own well-being," he added. "Working with architects, we can accelerate this need for healthier buildings and improve quality of life across the country."

Mahesh Ramanujam, COO of the USGBC, said that our world is confronting massive challenges that affect our physical, mental and social well-being. "We know that programs like USGBC's LEED green building rating system and [the International WELL Building Institute's (IWBI)] WELL Building Standard provide key solutions to business leaders who are looking for the best way to create healthier, more sustainable buildings."

Ramanujam goes on to say that they will continue to educate and push the market to prioritize human health in the built environment, which has benefits that extend beyond the building itself to the cities, communities and neighborhoods where we live.

According to the study, the top five healthier building features currently in use are:

  • Better lighting/daylighting exposure
  • Products that enhance thermal comfort
  • Spaces that enhance social interaction
  • Enhanced air quality
  • Products that enhance acoustical comfort

The report found that use of these features is expected to grow considerably, along with new approaches like using biophilic design features, spaces that enhance tenant mood and opportunities for physical activity.

According to Stephen A. Jones, senior director of industry insights at Dodge Data & Analytics, the increased attention to building health impacts is just the beginning. "In a similar way several years ago, companies engaged in green construction because of the demonstrable business and financial benefits they were able to achieve," he said. "The findings of this report demonstrate that the focus on buildings that enhance the health and well-being of their occupants is likely to follow a similar trajectory, boosted by those who have committed to sustainability in their organizations."

As architects and designers, are you finding similar shifts in what building owners want? Do you see an increased use of these features in the buildings you're designing? We'd love to hear your thoughts.


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