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Survey: Health in Design Decisions

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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Nearly 70 percent of U.S building owners consider building health impacts when they make key decisions involving design and construction, a new survey suggests.

Available for free download, the report “The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016” was published by Dodge Data & Analytics in collaboration with other industry partners, including the American Institute of Architects. The survey reveals that the connection between design and health is strengthening and identifies areas where opportunities exist.

© / Tsyhun

"Consideration of the impact of the built environment on health and well-being is not new, but it has emerged recently as an increasingly important priority in the design and construction industry," according to the survey.

While the survey found that two-thirds of building owners reported that health considerations affect how they design and construct their buildings, it found more owners are influenced by other factors including cost savings during design and construction (85 percent); aesthetics (74 percent); and energy performance (74 percent), according to the survey.

This indicates that the consideration of health is still an emerging trend for U.S. building owners.

‘Crucial’ Consideration

Meanwhile, nearly three quarters (74 percent) of U.S. architects consider health impacts of buildings to be influential in their design decisions, according to the report.

“As a society, we spend nearly 87 percent of our time indoors,” AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA., said in a statement. “Designing and constructing ‘healthy buildings’ is crucial to our own well-being.”

According to the AIA, the report documents the value and need for more of the research, education, collaboration and outreach efforts.

Gap Revealed

A key takeaway from the report is that it suggests there is a gap in understanding between designers and contractors regarding their clients’ goals for healthier buildings.

The survey found many design and construction professionals underestimate owner interest in the goals for their healthier building investments including improving tenant/employee satisfaction with the building.

Improved tenant/employee satisfaction and engagement can help with staff retention, attraction and productivity, according to the report. Architects were most in tune with their clients (owners) when it comes to understanding the goals of healthy building investments, as compared to other industry players, the report said.

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Daylighting was listed among the top healthy building features currently in use.

The report also found a lack of knowledge about benefits of investing in healthier buildings. The study found that most owners are not aware how healthy building investments result in business benefits like leasing rates (52 percent) and asset values (58 percent). However, among those owners that reported an effect, 73 percent reported faster rates and 62 percent reported higher values.

These findings demonstrate the need for more metrics in terms of true financial and business benefits of healthy buildings, the report noted. In the meantime, employee satisfaction and engagement surveys may be an important metric for owners.

Top Features

The report also listed the top healthy building features currently being employed, including:

  • Daylighting;
  • Low VOC products;
  • Products that enhance thermal comfort;
  • Spaces that enhance social interaction;
  • Enhanced air quality; and
  • Products that enhance acoustical comfort.

Use of nearly all of these is expected to grow significantly along with additional approaches like the use of biophilic design features; spaces that enhance tenant mood; and opportunities for physical activity, according to the report.

New Focus

“The increased attention to building health impacts is just beginning,” says Stephen A. Jones, senior director of Industry Insights at Dodge Data & Analytics. “In a similar way several years ago, companies engaged in green construction because of the demonstrable business and financial benefits they were able to achieve.

“The findings of this report demonstrate that the focus on buildings that enhance the health and well-being of their occupants is likely to follow a similar trajectory, boosted by those who have committed to sustainability in their organizations.”

The survey analyzed responses from 671 individuals in the U.S., including owners, architects, interior designers and contractors, as well as responses from Canada and other countries.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Building owners; Color + Design; Design; Health and safety; North America; Research and development; Trends

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