In 1984, the World Health Organization (WHO) coined the term “sick building syndrome.” That same year, a WHO Committee report suggested that up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide might be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality.1
As times change, so does the way people think about buildings. Today, the focus has shifted from concerns about sick buildings to creating healthy environments for buildings’ occupants. This focus on wellness was on display at last week’s USGBC-Massachusetts Healthy Building Summit. Advances in building science, more certifications that evaluate the life cycle impact of building products, and even shifts in workforce demographics are shaping how the AEC community approaches the relationship between a building and its occupants.
And while no one can predict the future with certainty, following are some predictions for how the healthy building conversation may continue to evolve in 2019.
- Increased Focus on the Occupant Experience – By their nature, buildings serve occupants engaged in varied experiences and with differing environmental concerns. For example in a hospital environment, privacy, indoor air quality, acoustics, and access to nature are being evaluated in context with patient experiences and even outcomes. Viewed in this context, insulation used in the enclosure should be considered in terms of its acoustic as well as thermal performance and ingredient composition. Acoustics and indoor environmental quality are also top concerns for school districts.
- A System Approach to the Building Enclosure – Strategic design and mindful materials will continue to converge into a system approach to the building enclosure. From below-grade garages to green rooftops and throughout the wall system–a system approach can manage the potential for moisture accumulation, meet energy expectations and support indoor environmental quality efforts. The system approach also applies to the life safety systems within the enclosure.
With nearly a half-century of experience, the Owens Corning® and Thermafiber® Insulation teams continue to be one of the pioneers in passive life safety systems. Thermafiber® recently became the first insulation to earn the SAFETY Act designation, providing powerful liability protection to architects, OEMs, fire stop contractors, building owners and other stakeholders in the unfortunate event of an act of terror.
- Green Without Compromise –In 2011, Owens Corning changed the manufacturing platform to remove formaldehyde from commercial and residential fiberglass insulation, replacing it with a bio-based binder, and continues to do so in the Thermafiber product line. As a product’s energy efficiency and environmental profile should not come at the expense of product performance, Owens Corning pledges that new products will perform at the same level or better than earlier versions. This philosophy is referred to as “green without compromise.” More information on this approach to sustainability is available here.
- Appealing to Generation Z – Competition for top talent is especially rigorous in a tight labor market. Generation Z workers just entering the market have a strong desire for authenticity, presenting an opportunity for manufacturers to provide transparency and describe products in terms of their life cycle impact. The recently launched Owens Corning Building Science Solutions Center’s “Sustainability” section makes it easy for AEC professionals to access research and white papers on product health and safety.
Owens Corning is proud to be a sponsor of the USGBC Healthy Building Summit. More information on Owens Corning’s commitment to sustainability – including an online learning center is available at the Building Science Solutions Center.
1 United States Environmental Protection Agency, Air and Radiation (6609J) Research and Development, Environmental Protection (MD-56) Agency February 1991
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