BUILDING FOR WELLBEING
How wellbeing is
Building performance tends to be measured in terms of energy efficiency, but the
impact of buildings on human health and wellbeing should be subject to equal, if
not greater scrutiny, according to Dene Kent, sales director for ventilation at Swegon.
18 BuildingProducts.co.uk • Building for Wellbeing
Targeting occupant wellbeing, therefore,
should be the most powerful driver for
improving building design. After all, humans
are by far the biggest expense associated
with the lifecycle of a building – dwarfing the
initial construction cost.
The 10-80-10 equation is a good way
to illustrate this argument where 10% of
the cost of a building is in its construction
and another 10% in its demolition and
decommissioning. The 80% lion’s share is
accounted for during its operational life
when it is full of ‘expensive’ people.
The wellbeing of those people is by far
the biggest economic factor in a building’s
life, but the World Health Organisation
(WHO) has highlighted serious health
threats to occupants caused by the amount
of pollution in the air used to supply building
ventilation systems. As a result, it has called
The building engineering sector has
tended to measure its success in
terms of energy performance, which
is, of course, a crucial metric for our work.
However, growing concern around links
between poor ventilation and rising cases of
respiratory disease as well as the impact of
poor indoor environment on mental health
and productivity means we should be looking
more widely at how building services affect
quality of life.
A report from the global management
consultancy, McKinsey, identified
human ‘wellness’ as the next “trilliondollar
industry”. It is clear that building
engineering sits at the heart of this booming
market, but we have been looking at it from
the wrong end of the telescope by focussing
heavily on energy at the expense of wider
The World Green Building Council
(WGBC) estimates that, on average,
improving energy efficiency delivers annual
savings of around £6 per m2 to the average
commercial building owner. Water efficiency
gives them back about £1. Yet, if a building
contributes to staff retention – because they
find it a healthy, invigorating and rewarding
place to work – that can deliver savings in the
order of £18 per m2. Reducing the absence
and poor performance linked to sickness
contributes another £26 per m2.
However, the biggest win is in productivity.
Even a modest 5% improvement brought
about by working in a better-ventilated,
cooled and lit space could be worth a
significant £307 per m2 per annum, according
to the WGBC.
To make a building healthier
requires a well thought-out
approach from the outset