The New Driver for Healthy Buildings

Not too long ago, our thoughts about what constituted a healthy building were very different than what they are today. Back then, in what could seem like another era, a healthy building could be perceived as a result of available amenities and structural appeal. How much access to sunlight and greenery did people have while inside the building? Did buildings have access to amenities that people wanted to stay healthy like yoga rooms, standing desks and ergonomic chairs?

Now buildings that want to be healthy often need to go back to the technology, both hardware and software, backing their operations. While LEED certifications and FITWEL buildings are a standardized measurement for global buildings, their focus has been on energy efficiency for reducing both carbon emissions as well as energy costs. Since the pandemic hit and with ongoing evolving recommendations around how to stay safe during it, those within buildings have begun to be much more interested in what kind of environment they’re in. Suddenly amenities, and even energy efficiency, are taking a back seat to a new driver, healthy places.

Indoor air quality, known widely as IAQ, has become one of the most important phrases in the building space. Known to affect the comfort and overall well-being of building occupants, poor IAQ can lead to sick building syndrome and reduce productivity. The pandemic has changed the wellness characteristics of a healthy building, including IAQ, from an optional add-on to a necessary quality. Fortunately, the technology exists to monitor and ensure that IAQ is where we need it to be to keep buildings and occupants healthy.

Healthy buildings are connected buildings – they’re in touch with various characteristics of the indoor environment from comfort and temperature to IAQ while also being receptive to occupant feedback. These buildings need to be flexible environments and adapt to current requirements while saving energy and letting acceptable ranges for temperature or other measurements expand when rooms are unoccupied.

How do you create these flexible and healthy environments within buildings? You listen. You watch. You do it nonstop, weekends included. You pay attention to cause and effect. You let sensors and systems do the work.

While there are many processes for keeping environments clean like ventilation, no practice is a good one if it’s effectiveness isn’t measured. Measurements cannot be taken as individual data bytes but must be looked at holistically. This all-encompassing perspective of looking at building health has picked up speed recently as the influences of occupancy, outside influences, humidity, and more can be used to track and minimize harmful pollutants or viruses.

Sensors are the only way to truly understand the multi-faceted indoor environment of buildings and make it healthy. There are inexpensive, accurate and precise sensors available for commercial buildings that can be easily placed and connected. These sensors will report back a lot of data and the data needs to be monitored, analyzed and ready for future comparisons. The Envio Systems BASE is an interactive and user-friendly platform to optimize building management and parameters for HVAC-R, lighting, and other building equipment. BASE helps keep track of indoor consumption, air quality elements and more through secure historic and real-time data collection.

In case you missed it, we recently announced a partnership with RESET and ebm-papst in response to airborne pandemics and to empower health and sustainability. This is a good example of how it can all work together.

Who benefits from healthy buildings? We all do. 

As John Macomber, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, veteran of the real estate industry and now author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, said, “Now that issues like air and water quality are top of mind, he is encouraging organizations to think more holistically about the buildings in which they operate, balancing cost efficiency and even eco-friendliness with investments in improvements that boost health. Studies show this will not only stop workers from getting sick; it will also enhance productivity, which ultimately helps the bottom line.”

Are you ready to evolve your building to a healthy building? Let’s get started.

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