The built environment affects human health and behavior in a direct and appreciable way. As we spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors, these places have a significant impact on our mental and physical well-being. The push to develop healthy buildings has always been around, but it has recently gathered momentum due to the pandemic with increasing numbers of projects opting for environmentally responsible, resource-efficient, safe, and healthy building plans. Below are a few principles of healthy building environments that will not just increase the performance of the building but will make people comfortable and active by designing the community around their needs.
Buildings are designed for people and putting the needs of individuals at the forefront which positively impacts their physical and mental well-being is of utmost importance. Incorporating daylight, views of nature, and biophilic design in the building will go a long way in reducing pain and depression among individuals.
Crucial in bringing fresh air from outside and diluting occupant-generated pollutants, well-ventilated buildings are designed to filter air and deliver it to occupants - even more crucial in the pandemic. In the absence of proper ventilation, indoor environments become unpleasant, stuffy, polluted, and uncomfortable, causing chronic harm to the occupants.
Exposure to indoor air pollutants is linked to allergies, bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Buildings should make use of furnishings, supplies, and building materials with low chemical emissions in order to limit sources of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. An annual air quality testing is recommended to ensure healthy air quality is maintained.
SAFE Planning and Designing
Planning and designing buildings that are SAFE – safe, accessible, fun, and easy is of great importance. Architects and designers should ask the questions – Is the building safe for the occupants? How accessible is its design for everyone? Is the experience fun and interesting for the occupants and guests? Is there a neighborhood identity to the building and how easy it is to connect with it?
A comfortable acoustic environment is absolutely key for healthy building and healthy living. Noisy environments adversely impact children’s cognitive development, also negatively affecting concentration, productivity, and physical health. The building should not only have protection against indoor noise including traffic, aircraft, construction, and more but also indoor noise such as mechanical equipment.
Contaminated drinking water is one of the leading causes of diseases globally. Addressing water quality is one of the essentials for a healthy building and for its occupants. Regular testing of water quality, water purification systems, and prevention of water stagnation in pipes, and ensuring residual disinfectant levels are sufficient to control microbes must be in place.
Thermal conditions are integral to occupant experience. A study showed that in case of unfavorable thermal factors such as ventilation, humidity, and heat, workers experienced itchy, watery eyes, headaches, etc. A built environment that meets minimum thermal comfort standards keeps it consistent throughout the day and provides individual level thermal control should be in place along with provisions for regular maintenance.