Buildings Meet Healthy Skepticism
Green building is a fixture of our times, but the correlation between buildings and occupant health has proved a tougher sell—especially among the influential medical community, according to a new report.
Even for architects and builders, health impacts are not top of mind during the design and construction of most buildings, concludes the SmartMarket Report by McGraw Hill Construction and the American Institute of Architects.
And, unfortunately for advocates, the issue ranks even lower within the medical community.
"Currently, the research points to a woeful lack of knowledge by medical practitioners about this connection," report Harvey M. Bernstein, F.ASCE, LEED AP, and Michele A. Russo, LEED AP, in The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings.
The report is based on data collected in a survey of architects, contractors, building owners, and medical practitioners. It outlines ways to turn the medical community into advocates of building health, increasing attention on health within the building community, and motivating building owners to foster healthier environments.
Turning Doctors into Advocates
Physicians are highly respected for their opinions, and the public trusts their judgment. However, the report found that medical professionals are not well-versed in the connection between healthy buildings and healthy occupants.
Twenty-two percent of physicians say new information on the correlation between health and buildings would not influence their advice to patients.
In fact, the report said, less than half of those in the medical community believe there is a connection.
Just 15 percent of medical practitioners say they have received any information on the correlation between health and buildings. And 22 percent said that new information would not influence their advice to patients.
Professionals in the residential and nonresidential sectors, however, are increasingly aware of the impact of building on health: 79 percent of commercial architects say they expect health to have a higher impact on building in 2016.
Firm size and location did not affect the findings, but involvement in green building did, with more members of that movement likely to embrace a connection between building and health.
With interest in healthy buildings likely to increase, the report urges investment in healthier building practices and products. The recommendations include:
Building owners should also be persuaded to invest in healthy structures, the report says, with benefits that are easily trackable by occupants.
Green spaces, like this park in Savannah, GA, have become increasingly important to health-conscious homeowners, the report says.
The benefits for nonresidential buildings may include health-care savings and greater employee satisfaction. For residential construction, health-focused design can mean nearby walking paths, green spaces and other amenities.
Health impact extends beyond physical considerations, too, the study noted.
Currently, two-thirds of lessees of corporate offices say they want spaces that encourage social interaction. That is expected to increase to 75 percent in the next few years.