Sustainable Building Post COVID-19
Health and Safety
August 27, 2020, 11:31 am
By: Dr Samar Hamad
Communities around the world are worried about the consequences of opening up their economies in the post COVID-19 era; how to control the spread of the disease and what precautionary measures need to be considered to ensure the health and wellness of community members. People are aware that the pandemic will affect every aspect of their future live. However, a considerable portion of people’s daily life takes place in buildings where they spend plenty of time at home, work, or school. As many businesses are reopening and children are sent back to school, increasing attention has been paid to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on how we view sustainable building in relation to the health and wellbeing of buildings’ occupants/users. While the focus of sustainable building concept has been primarily on producing energy efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings, more health and social equity aspect are currently being integrated to sustainable building in the post COVID-19 era. The leading green building certification programs are integrating health and wellness into their certification criteria to address the current public health crisis. They promote sustainable building solutions that involve monitoring air quality to prevent spread of infections, supporting social distancing, and promoting non-toxic surface cleaning. Hence, the health and wellness of buildings’ occupants will be considered throughout the design, building, and operation processes.
More flexibility in use and configuration of building interiors coupled with indoor-outdoor connectivity design approaches will be the new trend for healthier building interiors. Open concept floor plans that can be used for multiple purposes with plenty of space to allow for social distancing will be crucial to stop the spread of coronavirus. Increasing the rates of outdoor air ventilation with more advanced filtration can remove contaminants, further improve the IAQ, and prevent COVID-19 transmission by reducing the airborne exposure to the virus. Various air filtration and purification practices that traditionally limited to healthcare building settings will be widely used in commercial and multi-family building settings. Furthermore, major changes are anticipated in the material of interior elements such as using solid surfaces instead of porous, replacing plastic light switches with anti-germ copper or bronze switch plate covers, and switching batt to spray insulation.
Health and wellness guidelines recommended by healthcare bodies must be adopted and transformed into operational protocols to be integrated into the building management systems (including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems) to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and increase ventilation and filtration. IAQ monitoring and building automation systems are the key applications of innovative technology in the post COVID-19 era. Such technologies and tools can also be used to minimize frequent surface touching (doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc.), in addition to the application of ultraviolet (UV) lights for building sanitization, and ionization systems for better IAQ solutions.
Although such health and wellness considerations are not new to sustainable building, they are becoming more magnified with extra emphasis on their integration to both building construction and operation. A wider range of stakeholders will be involved in the sustainable building design process, including healthcare experts, doctors, and scientist to tackle the unprecedented challenges the world is facing. From now on sustainable building will go far beyond green in order to create healthier public and private spaces.