by Désirée Driesenaar, Blue Economy Expert
What is a building? Is it just a bundle of stone, concrete and glass that looks nice on the outside? That is built with toxic materials, because ‘it has always been done this way’? Or should it be a healthy shelter that supports our life functions? Should it support a healthy sleep? Or a healthy way of being productive in an office? Or be a healthy, stimulating environment for our learning children?
Sometimes I think we just have our priorities wrong. We make things without considering the overall goal of living our lives in the best way we can. Our current way of building is focussed on quick building (man power is equivalent to high costs), exposure building (design is all, it needs to look good on the outside and be an asset to the architect who designed it) and energy-efficient building (closed windows and mechanical heating and cooling). Sadly there is often no thought spent on healthy building, with a focus on good air quality and indoor climate. We need new priorities, with also attention for daylight, acoustics and a natural look and feel, to make people healthy and happy.
Beyond Trodden Paths
The good news is that it is possible to build a healthy building. It has been done before. And it doesn’t have to be more expensive either. The biggest key for change is looking beyond the trodden paths. Do you want a good indoor air quality and climate? Use termite ventilation instead of mechanical ventilation. Or use the benefits of purifying plants. NASA has done research into many plants that purify the air. You can think of a system that purifies the incoming air (plants outside) or indoor plants that capture e.g. formaldehyde or toluene. You can also think about not using toxic materials in the first place. Or using upholstering, such as carpets, that cleans the air instead of polluting it. All these solutions exist, they have entered the market, so what is stopping you from taking this first step?
As you can see the solutions are divers. And that is good. Because different situations require different solutions. Diversity is an asset in everything we do. And if many more investors and users of buildings see the benefits of a healthy building there is space enough for all these solutions in the market. New innovation roads that can be taken are e.g. measuring devices, circular production methods, healthy material choices, individual control mechanisms, moist control, sound absorbing materials, reflective materials, biophilic design and many more.
If you are on an innovation road towards healthy building solutions and need extra knowledge, the Healthy Building Network can help. You can receive network, knowledge and money for hiring an expert institute across the Dutch/German border. More information about this innovation opportunity can be found on our website. In our community you can meet professionals from many diverse fields, so I invite you to become active, ask questions and contribute your insights.
Challenge for All
It is the challenge of our time to make the world a healthy place and keep it that way. Therefore I want to ask investors to make health in buildings a top priority. Architects, take up the challenge and build healthy buildings. In a few years’ time this fact will enhance your portfolio much more than the nice-on-the-outside feature. Builders, update your material knowledge and go beyond the trodden paths. And suppliers, keep on innovating in line with health benefits. The market will grow and the innovators will have the advantage. If we can help anyone of you to achieve this goal, please let us know.