Urban environments only account for 2% of total land use in the U.S.; however, they’re home to 82% of the U.S. population. With more and more people moving into cities, the demand for healthy buildings is at an all-time high.

Optimizing the built environment not only benefits our health, but it promotes a more sustainable future and may be the answer to solving the most complex issues that plague our planet. Here’s more on what healthy buildings are and the main areas that impact building health.

What Are Healthy Buildings & Why Are They Important?

What Are Healthy Buildings & Why Are They Important?

Healthy buildings take a holistic approach to design, construction, and maintenance to account for waste management, energy efficiency, resource allocation, indoor air quality, and other aspects that impact the health of people and the environment.

With the increase in commercial floor space throughout the decades, designers and developers must now consider these aspects of building health in every project. Just between the years of 1979 and 2018, the total number of buildings in the U.S. rose by 56% and floor space skyrocketed by 89%.

These numbers are only expected to increase in the coming years, with floor space projected to grow by 29% in 2050. With so much construction on the way, it’s vital that we optimize these building environments from the ground up to ensure they leave a minimal impact on our health and the environment, starting at the design phase.

What Are the Main Areas of Building Health?

According to Harvard’s Sustainable Development Goals, there are four main areas of building health to focus on, which include the following:

Environmental Health

Commercial buildings alone are responsible for a large chunk of total electricity usage in the U.S., accounting for 35% of all electricity consumed. Unfortunately, 30% of the energy used to run a building is wasted. Much of this waste can be attributed to outdated, inefficient HVAC systems, which are responsible for almost half of a building’s energy use.

Additionally, the fossil fuels combusted to create the energy a building needs release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is the primary greenhouse gas impacting the environment. Buildings in the U.S. were responsible for 16% of all CO2 emissions in the country in 2022. By utilizing our resources more efficiently, we can reduce energy consumption and prevent the release of harmful greenhouse gases.

Occupant Health

On average, we spend approximately 90% of our time inside. To put this in perspective, you will have spent 60 years of your life indoors by the time you blow out the candles on your 70th birthday. With so much of our time spent inside, we must ensure that our hospitals, schools, office buildings, and other environments have exceptional air quality and thermal comfort.

What Are the Main Areas of Building Health?
How to Increase Your Building’s Health
Constant exposure to indoor air pollution has caused many occupants to suffer from “Sick Building Syndrome” — a condition where individuals experience “unexplained” symptoms within a building, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose or throat irritation, and more. These symptoms reduce worker performance, cognitive function, and decrease overall quality of life.

Further, thermal comfort is vital to worker health, especially those in the industrial manufacturing industry where high temperatures could increase the risk of heat-related death.

Resource Health

A building’s overall impact on the environment depends greatly on how it uses and manages its resources. The construction process alone requires 25% of the resources extracted from the Earth’s surface, highlighting the need for sustainable building materials.

Further, many of the materials used in the construction process as well as those used in day-to-day operation generate significant amounts of waste, which end up in landfills and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. To control waste production, building owners must establish an effective waste management program and make an effort to source reusable building materials.

Economic Health

There’s a common misconception that in order to cut costs and boost profits, you must invest less in sustainability. While this may save you in the short term, it’s not the most economical decision.

There are several long-term benefits of transitioning to a ‘green building’ — one being that green construction projects are expected to produce millions of jobs for hardworking Americans.

Further, healthy buildings conserve more energy and put an added focus toward maintaining exceptional air quality, boosting employee productivity and saving owners money on building expenses. In fact, building owners that don’t invest in sustainable products and upgrade their equipment, like their HVAC system, actually lose money due to constant maintenance and wasted energy.

How to Increase Your Building’s Health

There are several ways to increase your building’s overall health. They include the following:

Become LEED Certified

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system assigns points for sustainable aspects of a building that limit their overall environmental impact.
Many building owners and developers have incorporated this tool to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint and increase the health of building occupants.

Improve Your HVAC System

As stated, HVAC systems account for almost half of a building’s energy use, making it the largest opportunity for energy savings. Inefficient HVAC systems have to draw twice as much energy to maintain the same level of output. With an upgraded system, your unit can do more with less. Further, high-efficiency air filters require less changes, reducing maintenance time and waste.

Integrate Sustainable Products

A key aspect of sustainability is selecting the right products for your facility. High-quality products with long lifespans may cost more upfront, but they will pay for themselves several times over down the road. One option to consider is an all-aluminum air handling unit that lasts twice as long as a traditional steel unit. Further, look into incorporating products like energy recovery wheels that help recycle the energy contained in the exhaust air and reduce the energy demand on the HVAC system.

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

High-efficiency HEPA air filters are the gold standard for filtering out airborne contaminants that could lead to chronic respiratory issues and disease. Further, UV lighting solutions help to eliminate mold from the coils of an HVAC system and prevent it from being released into the air.

Go Green with Ketchum & Walton’s Solutions

Ketchum & Walton has been at the forefront of innovation since 1949 to deliver high-quality products that enhance your environment.

We offer premium solutions for HVAC equipment and Indoor Air Quality that help you achieve industry standards and become LEED certified. Let us find the right solution for you by calling one of our representatives today to schedule a consultation.

Go Green with Ketchum & Walton’s Solutions

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