Transform the built environment to support health

Transform the built environment to support health



The pandemic has pushed new thinking in health and wellness to the forefront of design. Consumers, office workers and patients pay more attention to healthy buildings, partly because more and more people are paying attention to advanced cleaning solutions and air handling systems to solve COVID-19. However, patients are also more aware of the importance of the environment, which can provide sufficient daylight and vision, use materials with low VOC content, and promote connection with nature and the outdoors. These changes are putting pressure on the design, development, and construction industries to deliver buildings that make people feel safe. The client also wanted designers to help them understand the measurable impact of design decisions, including indoor air quality, building performance, and access to the outdoors.

Existing qualifications and certification programs (such as WELL and Fitwel) provide specific standards for the delivery of healthy buildings and include post-completion monitoring. For example, all WELL projects are verified by on-site testing of building performance. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) also recently adopted the “Excellence Design Framework”, a toolkit that helps achieve higher building performance and links its design procedures with verifiable indicators. This is a major shift from aesthetics to architectural performance, human well-being and social responsibility. Factors such as the use of low-VOC materials and increased available daylight represent some of the basic principles of good design in the 21st century. Regardless of whether the designer is seeking incentives or not, these parameters provide an industry reference point for understanding building features that promote health, save resources, reduce emissions, and support communities.

As part of Duda | Paine Architects’ focus on healthy design, we outline some important areas of focus:

air quality: Mechanical systems (especially HVAC systems) are receiving increasing attention as a safety mechanism to protect patients, employees and visitors from viruses and other air and surface-borne diseases. Sustainability features that were once regarded as value engineering waste bins, such as improved central air filtration, upgraded filters, zoning systems, increased outdoor air levels in HVAC systems, and even operable windows have all received attention. These functions improve indoor air quality and meet the ventilation and filtration standards that reduce the level of virus and bacterial particle movement. In addition, ionization and ultraviolet germicidal radiation can be added to the air system to clean the air in usually crowded spaces.

Verifiable performance: Investment in new technologies must be accompanied by strict design and construction quality assurance and performance verification. The scope of post-occupancy assessments can vary greatly, but all of them fundamentally ask whether the building has achieved the expected performance.

For example, Duke University’s Student Health Center in Durham, North Carolina hopes to transform more clinical student care models into student-open, welcoming facilities that provide students with a comfortable environment while encouraging healthy behaviors. The design of the open two-story entrance pavilion is strategically located on the main circulation route, and is considered a large multi-story living room with sunlight, landscape, privacy screens and natural stone and wood. Data collected one year after the opening of the Duke University Student Health Center shows that the Oasis meditation space, which is designed to meet the needs of students, is used by 10 to 15 students every day. The attendance rate of the health plan increased by 40%, the attendance rate of nurses increased by 6%, and the non-attendance rate decreased by 10%.

Experience strategy: The company has long advocated for outdoor spaces, elevated gardens and indoor greening facilities in various markets, from office buildings to university campuses to buildings to maintain health and benefit the user experience. A growing body of research supports the success of biophilic design in improving the well-being of occupants, including increasing productivity, reducing stress, and reducing prevalence. What is a measurable starting point? In the temperate climate of the southeast, a certain percentage of the building area is used for squares, roof terraces and indoor gardens. Another consideration is to use foldable exterior doors that have been used in hospital waiting areas and cancer centers to change the internal space that can be directly exposed to sunlight and fresh air.

As occupants continue to be sensitive to personal health and safety issues in the built environment, standards and certification systems will become the norm for facilities that provide health and wellness services to patients.

Jeffrey Paine of FAIA is the founding principal of Duda | Paine Architects (Durham, North Carolina).He can be contacted by [email protected].



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