And How Green Construction Is Building Healthier Humans
These days, green is more than a fringe element. It’s more than a backyard hobby or a niche blog topic. It no longer just belongs to the back-to-the-landers. Today, green is truly a movement and industry–and it’s here to stay.
Green is everywhere, and we couldn’t be happier about it. This includes the ever-increasing amount of green construction growth happening all across the world, primarily due to the rise of higher standards and certifications.
Believe it or not, the green building market is anticipated to be among the fastest growing industries worldwide. A full 47% of respondents to a Dodge Data & Analytics survey reported that more than 60% of their projects will be green by 2021. Adds the report, “Building owners, especially, were excited about the growth in green building, with 57% planning to make the majority of their projects green by 2021.”
Nevertheless, certain companies and regions are driving green construction growth more than others. Wondering which cities are driving green initiatives across the country? Flip through our SlideShare, below, to see the top cities for green construction growth now. The results may surprise you.
Perhaps even more surprising than the cities driving green construction across the U.S. is one of the primary reasons why some companies are choosing to bring more sustainability to their projects. Read on to learn more.
Building with More Purpose: A Desire for “Healthier Buildings”
So just how is the drive toward greener construction taking shape? While top green cities are helping to reduce construction’s impact on the environment, they are also making dramatic improvements in the wellbeing of their community members. Health is wealth, after all. Giving people the gift of less pollution, fewer chemicals and purer environments is a significant motivator for green construction growth.
Which is why we’ve seen so much emphasis on “healthier buildings” lately. According to the Dodge Data & Analytics report, 27% of respondents reported “healthier buildings” a top trigger driving future green construction activity.
In addition to energy efficiency, healthy buildings have measurable human health outcomes in office and residential settings. “Daylighting–using natural light and direct sunlight–improves workers’ health, happiness and productivity. And zero-VOC products means building occupants aren’t exposed to these chemicals that can irritate eyes and cause central nervous system damage.”
The emphasis is not just here in America, either. Countries like Brazil, India, China and South Africa are also increasing their focus on health as a driving social reason for building green.
As “The Healthy Workplace” author Leigh Stringer, EYP, told FMI, “Many of the strategies for creating a healthy and productive physical work environment stem from the efforts to make buildings greener or more environmentally friendly.”
Beyond the Certification: A New Definition for Healthy Buildings
Another sweeping change? A gold star is no longer enough. While LEED certification has been a buzz term for many years, “healthy” buildings are being redefined and causing many owners to think beyond just the certification–a massive driver in new green construction growth.
“The word health was generally applied in green building 10 years ago but not well defined,” says Whitney Gray, Senior Vice President at Delos, which established WELL Building Institute, in the Dodge Data & Analytics report. “People in the building industry thought of health mostly within the LEED format, focusing on things like air quality, materials, acoustics and lighting. Now, we’re redefining health in buildings.”
Healthier buildings are paying off, too. Studies show that people in green buildings really are healthier: “Phase two examined real buildings in the United States to determine whether people in certified ‘green’ buildings had better cognitive function and health compared to high-performing but non-certified buildings. The results showed an increase of 26% in cognitive scores in certified ‘green buildings, due to better access to daylight and improved thermal comfort conditions.”
What Are the Attributes of a Healthy Building?
More good news: We now have a much clearer idea of what makes buildings healthier, and therefore making it easier for designers and contractors to integrate these characteristics into new buildings in the future. The attributes of a healthy building include:
- Better lighting and more natural light
- Enhanced thermal comfort
- Supported social interaction and physical activity
- Improved air quality
- Enhanced acoustical comfort
- Non-toxic building materials
Notable Healthy Building Standards You Should Know About
Creating a healthy building doesn’t need to rely on guesswork or pie-in-the-sky hopes. There are real, measurable, metrics-based standards for what constitutes a healthy building. Here are a couple of notable programs bringing more awareness and standardization to what it means to create a healthy building.
Well Building Standard (WELL)
As they explain, “The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) is leading the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive.” Their standards help builders measure their wellbeing approach with the WELL AP™ credential, a third-party certificate awarded to those who hit high scientific and medical marks in design, construction and management.
Their approach has been heralded as “the next big thing in business,” helping builders not only make environmental goals but increase the health of inhabitants as well.
According to its website, “Fitwel is the World’s Leading Certification System that Optimizes Buildings to Support Health.” They describe themselves as a “group of rigorous researchers, innovative urban planners, and detail-oriented architects” sourcing their values from “a wide range of professions including public health, design, development, statistics, and research.”
They work with both public and private agencies to help builders achieve the highest standards for wellness in their projects, whether that means retrofitting of existing structures or constructing new ones. They have distinct “pathways” for retail, community, workplace and multifamily residential buildings. By “addressing a broad range of health behaviors and risks,” they offer one, two or three stars.
Standards such as this help us do more than good enough (which as we know is not enough); they help us set the bar high when it comes to influencing the realm of human health and wellbeing.
Green Construction Growth: A Future, Not a Fad
Perhaps the best news of all is that green construction growth isn’t shaping up to become yet another quickly abandoned futuristic fad, but rather a new way of life. As more consumers and owners demand environmental values, we will see an ever-increasing emphasis on eco-friendly design in the built world. And as more workers become familiar with green technologies, it will become ever easier to promote green building.
So let’s all join together to promote green construction to create a healthier planet and population.
If you’re looking to go green at your construction company, download our helpful guide to get started.