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How Facilities Professionals Can Make Their Buildings Healthy

Dec 9, 2022 | Public | 0 comments

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how important it is to have a healthy work environment. The recent webinar “Healthy Building Strategies: Putting Sustainability and People First,” sponsored by biosafety technology company R-Zero, featured three facilities management professionals who explained what healthy buildings are and what can be done to make buildings more healthy.

Healthy buildings are the “most pressing and important public health challenge of our generation,” said webinar moderator Dean Stanberry, the first Vice Chair of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Global Board of Directors.

Joining Stanberry was Grant Morgan, CEO and Cofounder of R-Zero, whose company was created during the pandemic, and Joanna Frank, Founding President and CEO of the Center for Active Design (CfAD) and operator of Fitwell, a certification program originally developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We spend about 90 percent of our lives indoors so those indoor spaces where we do spend our time have a massive impact on our overall health,” Morgan said.

What Is a Healthy Building?

So, what is a healthy building? Here’s a three-step process to help facilities professionals make new and existing buildings healthy:

  1. Understand the needs of building occupants.
  2. Use evidence-based design operational strategies to optimize the building.
  3. Understand the impact on health and financial outcomes.

Public health experts have always touted the benefits of healthy buildings, but there was never really a demand for them. Now, there is unprecedented demand because of the pandemic.

Who Benefits from Healthy Buildings?

Morgan explained that a variety of groups can benefit from healthy buildings:

  1. Occupants—Building occupants will be healthier, morale will be increased, and there will be an uptick in cognitive performance. About 40 million people get the flu every year, affecting employers’ ability to meet their goals because these sick employees can’t come to work.
  2. Businesses—A company’s most expensive asset is its people, so increasing productivity by providing a healthy environment means more profitability. “If you can get 1 or 2 percent more productivity out of your employees, that’s a massive ROI (return on investment),” Morgan noted. It will also help lower health insurance premiums through increased employee health.
  3. Real estate owners—Buildings with a healthy certification ranking can command higher rent, and these buildings have a better ability to keep their spaces occupied with tenants because of higher tenant satisfaction.

According to Frank, investors view the lack of effort to make a building healthy as a risk; they want to see facilities professionals’ making attempts to improve the health of occupants and report on these attempts using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors.

Additionally, healthy buildings can positively impact occupants’ mental health and increase their life span.

Strategies for Creating a Healthy Building

Frank also provided some strategies facilities professionals can use to make their buildings healthier, such as:

  1. Location—streetscape and walkability to parks, amenities, and transit
  2. Design elements—staircase signage and visibility, as well as natural light into the building
  3. Operational strategies—indoor air quality, water quality, and maintenance
  4. Building amenities—exercise facility, great greenery, and access to healthy food

Proactive Strategies

As Frank advised, “You have to understand as an office owner or as an employer that you are competing with people’s home office. How do you create an environment in the office that is actually optimized and entices people to come back to the office? Indoor air quality is one of the big opportunities here because most folks in their own homes don’t have sophisticated HVAC systems.”

Therefore, it’s important to be proactive in making improvements to existing buildings and redesigning new buildings to make them healthy. Some of the ways you can do this include:

  1. Improving indoor air quality—Look at increasing air exchanges per hour through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, and ensure heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are working correctly.
  2. Streamlining operations—Look at disinfecting protocols and use of occupancy sensors to set meeting room limits.
  3. Surfacing insights—Influence changes in cleaning policies.
  4. Staircase visibility—Add signs to inform occupants about stairs, and consider installing doors with glass windows.

It’s important to also note that a lack of money does not have to be a stumbling block. “There’s an unprecedented amount of funding that exists today. It’s accessible to organizations of all shapes and sizes, from schools to Fortune 500 enterprises, to everything in between,” Morgan said, pointing to the American Rescue Plan as just one example.

He believes indoor air quality will eventually be regulated in the future and expects Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines to be incorporated into building codes and legislation.

In the meantime, facilities professionals should work with upper management to determine what changes should be made to make their buildings healthier. To learn more, watch this on-demand session for free by clicking here.

The post How Facilities Professionals Can Make Their Buildings Healthy appeared first on Facilities Management Advisor.

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