WASHINGTON—US Green Business Council released its Healthy Economy Forum Report this week, saying that greater focus needs to be on building for resilience given the challenges of the pandemic, as well as ongoing fight against climate change.
Here are key insights from the report:
Investing in Schools is a First Step in Reopening the Economy
There are real economic decisions school districts struggle with in order to meet post-COVID upgrades to HVAC systems, airflow, ventilation, scheduling and occupancy and current federal funding is not sufficient. Substandard public school infrastructure—poor indoor air quality causing mold in classrooms and heightening asthma rates in students—is now too great a problem to ignore. The need to adapt to COVID-19 can drive long-overdue infrastructure developments forward.
A McKinsey study noted that if businesses can emphasize better health, we can add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2040.
A View survey found that 83% of full-time workers are more concerned about the healthiness of their offices than they were in January. From humidity levels and temperature to ventilation rates and filtration, the quality of the air inside these spaces was the most important factor discussed. Speakers believed building occupants will start to demand better ventilation with an increased cost of $14 – $40 per person each year. Active design, lighting and views were also cited as critical health factors. Inactivity was noted to result in $54 billion in health care costs and $14 billion in lost productivity.
Pandemic Mode: Resilient buildings must also help people be resilient
There is a need to expand the definition of a resilient building to say a resilient building is not only one that rolls with the punches, but also helps occupants roll with the punches. We need dynamic buildings and can no longer look at a building envelope as a construct that is hermetically sealed off from the world. Presenters discussed designing spaces to include a pandemic mode that can be switched on and off to respond to occupant needs during a pandemic, or a weather event.
Ensuring high indoor air quality is not only possible but there are many ways to do it
Ventilation, filtration, hygiene and control of source all play a role in generating healthier air. Controlling relative humidity was introduced as one important factor that may decrease disease transmission, as well as monitoring air circulation whether with operable windows; increasing air supply; assessing, testing and replacing MERV 13 filters or adjusting HVAC systems to bring in additional outdoor air.
The role of contractors in building healthy, sustainable buildings
Contractors are key individuals when it comes to putting commitments into practice and are often where the rubber meets the road of sustainability production. When it comes to negotiations and procurement, they often control what shows up on the job site and decide on substitutions. They also must deeply commit to the recycling aspect of construction and demolition debris. Then, when inside buildings, these commitments must include good sanitization practices, constant monitoring of building performance and individuals’ own personal behaviors.
The burden of proof that buildings are safe to return to is on the owners
Transparent communication will build the trust and confidence people need before heading back to work. While many of the strategies might be inside a building’s walls, it is equally important to promote visible strategies like socially distanced desks, hand sanitizer stations and more access to windows to show people you have taken steps to make the space safer than it was before.
Technology can play a key role in building trust with occupants and stakeholders.
Constant monitoring of building performance and air quality with updates using tools like Arc Re-Entry is another way to show transparency and communicate openly with building occupants. Without overloading them with information, teams should give occupants the confidence in knowing buildings are taking action to keep them as safe as possible through real-time communication updates.