Not only do green buildings have lower levels of particulates, bacteria and fungi, people who worked in them reported less headaches, skin irritation and fatigue.
Buildings lay at the heart of thriving metropolitan cities like Singapore. As city dwellers spend 90% of the time indoors, air quality in our homes, offices and other public buildings has a direct effect on our health and personal well-being.
In Singapore, the Green Mark (GM) scheme was introduced by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in 2005 for both new and existing buildings. Designed for the tropics, the scheme uses Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) performance indicators, such as ventilation, filtration, materials, thermal comfort, lighting levels and noise level, to measure the environmental impact of a building on its occupants.
Green buildings and public health
“Sick building syndrome” is a phenomenon associated with poor air quality in buildings due to the release of gases, particulates and volatile compounds from furnishings and other human activities. In poorly managed and operated buildings, such indoor pollutants can lead to physical maladies, with reported symptoms such as headaches, respiratory ailments and skin irritations.
Research have also shown that people make poorer decisions and performed worse on cognitive tests when they were placed in ill-ventilated rooms with higher levels of volatile organic compounds.
To counter indoor pollutants and enhance air quality, high-efficiency filters in air distribution systems and sensors to detect harmful compounds such as formaldehyde are among the measures in building green practices recommended for use.
Greener buildings, healthier occupants
To determine the effects of GM certification on indoor air quality of buildings and its occupants’ health and satisfaction, BCA collaborated with the National University of Singapore (NUS) on a research study comparing GM-certified office buildings with non-GM buildings.
The study found that not only do green buildings have lower levels of particulates, bacteria and fungi, people who worked in them reported less headaches, skin irritation and fatigue. Occupants in GM buildings also show higher satisfaction levels with temperature, humidity, air quality, lighting level and indoor environment than those in non-GM buildings.
More crucial was the finding that of the GM-certified buildings, older structures that had been upgraded to meet Green Mark standards performed just as well as new ones designed and custom-built to green standards.
Building for tomorrow
Traditionally, building owners have been drawn to green measures for its energy efficiency and cost saving ability. In demonstrating a noticeable improvement in indoor air quality as well as occupants’ health and workplace satisfaction, there is a stronger case for existing building owners to get themselves Green Mark certified.
With buildings being key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions – and hence global warming – the responsibility of reducing unnecessary energy consumption and the carbon dioxide emissions that accompany them falls on cities and their custodians.
By transforming our existing buildings to reduce CO2 emission and energy use, building owners can not only mitigate the effects of climate change, they can also make a difference in improving the mental and physical health of its users.