In the ever-evolving world of facilities management, there is a bigger emphasis on promoting the health and well-being of building occupants. Healthy buildings go beyond energy efficiency and sustainability; they prioritize factors that directly impact the health, productivity, and comfort of those inside.
From optimizing air quality to meeting industry standards, facilities managers should consider the following trends in healthy buildings:
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management
As the COVID-19 pandemic and recent Canadian wildfires proved, IAQ is crucial for providing a healthy environment. Facilities managers must prioritize IAQ by regularly inspecting and maintaining HVAC systems; ensuring proper ventilation; and using CDC-recommended MERV-13 and HEPA air filters. Some facilities are even incorporating UV-C technology to kill airborne pathogens. Additionally, advanced IAQ-monitoring systems can provide real-time data on pollutant levels, allowing facilities managers to identify and address issues promptly.
(Learn more about IAQ during the Healthy Buildings Week webinar “ASHRAE Standards for Control of Infectious Aerosols: Improving Clean Airflow Rates.”)
Biophilic design, which incorporates natural elements into the built environment, has gained significant popularity due to its positive impact on occupant health and well-being. Facilities managers can work with architects and interior designers to integrate features such as living walls, green roofs, indoor plants, and natural materials. Biophilic elements not only enhance aesthetics, but also improve air quality, reduce stress, and boost cognitive function among occupants.
(Learn more during the Healthy Buildings Week webinar “Designing Healthy Spaces with Biophilic Design.”)
Smart Building Technologies
Smart building technologies have revolutionized the way we manage and control indoor environments—sometimes even remotely! From automated lighting and temperature regulation to occupancy sensors that adjust ventilation, these technologies optimize energy usage while promoting occupant comfort and health. Smart building systems also monitor and analyze conditions, allowing facilities managers to make data-driven decisions for predictive maintenance. With safety and security also playing an important role in healthy buildings, facilities are increasingly adopting high-tech solutions like biometric access control and gun-detecting AI.
Enhanced Cleaning and Sanitization
COVID-19 changed how everyone views cleaning. New processes and terms emerged, and who can forget the EPA’s crucial List N? In the wake of the pandemic, the importance of proper cleaning and sanitization practices cannot be overstated. Facilities managers should adopt enhanced cleaning protocols, using effective disinfectants and sanitizing high-touch surfaces regularly. Moreover, the installation of touchless technology, such as automatic doors and motion-activated faucets, can greatly reduce the spread of germs. Many companies are also turning to safer and more eco-friendly cleaning products, though there’s still much debate about what truly constitutes “green cleaning.”
Wellness and Fitness Amenities
Facilities managers can help create new spaces within buildings to promote physical activity, relaxation, and mental wellness. Gyms, fitness centers, yoga rooms, meditation spaces, and outdoor recreational areas offer occupants opportunities to de-stress and engage in healthy activities. These amenities not only contribute to improved well-being, but also foster a sense of community within the building. Furthermore, as companies struggle with return-to-work policies, offering these amenities may help attract hybrid workers back into the office.
Acoustic Design and Noise Reduction
Noise pollution can significantly impact occupant health and productivity. After all, it’s hard to concentrate when you can’t hear yourself think. To help minimize noise disruptions within a building, facilities managers should implement acoustic design principles. Sound-absorbing materials, noise-reducing partitions, and strategic layout planning can help create a quieter and more conducive environment for work and relaxation.
Proper lighting is paramount in healthy buildings. Thoughtful designs that combine lots of natural and artificial light can regulate circadian rhythms, reduce eye strain, enhance mood, and increase productivity. Smart lighting tech can help slash utility costs, and many facilities (including the One World Trade Center) are ditching fluorescent light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs. Incandescent light bulbs, meanwhile, are going the way of the dodo following a new federal ban.
(Learn more by reading “Back to Basics: Lighting Improvements for Healthy Buildings.”)
By incorporating ergonomic principles, such as adjustable furniture, well-placed computer monitors, and proper lighting, facilities managers can help reduce the risk of injuries and musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. Ergonomics is so important for worker health that OSHA has continually cited companies, including Amazon, for related hazards.
Building certification programs offer myriad benefits: They provide valuable guidelines for facilities managers to ensure buildings meet industry-recognized standards; they demonstrate an organization’s commitment to a cause; and they can even boost a building’s market value and attract tenants. Therefore, it’s no surprise certifications are highly sought-after these days.
Top healthy building standards include WELL and Fitwel, while prominent green building standards include LEED and ENERGY STAR. Notably, the organizations behind WELL and LEED recently teamed up to provide a streamlined process for projects pursuing both certifications.
(Learn more in the Healthy Buildings Week webinar “The Evolution of WELL: How to Leverage the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management.”)
As the focus on occupant health and well-being continues to grow, facilities managers must embrace the top trends in healthy buildings. In addition to the operational and financial upsides, implementing these key strategies and technologies will undoubtedly lead to healthier, happier, and more productive building environments.