Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time inside, making indoor air quality and lighting critical to their health, comfort and productivity. A study led by Piers MacNaughton from Harvard University supports this claim, reporting that green-certified buildings can improve occupant health and cognitive function.
MacNaughton’s team looked at 10 high-performing buildings in five cities across the US, and found occupants in green certified environments scored 26 percent higher on cognitive function tests. The same occupants experienced 30 percent fewer symptoms of sick building syndrome and recorded 6 percent higher sleep quality scores than those in non-green certified buildings.
The study supports the idea that air quality, lighting and temperature control should be a top priority when designing, constructing and maintaining healthy buildings.
This is exactly what Johnson Controls did when it constructed and expanded four high-performance buildings at its corporate campus in Glendale, Wisconsin. The buildings incorporate technologies that minimize their environmental impact while supporting productivity. This means installing geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic energy, under-floor heating and cooling, safety management, skylights and bigger windows to increase the amount of natural light. The company has also led a wide range of green building projects that incorporate similar technologies, from schools and universities to hospitals and sports stadiums, all with a focus on the health of both the building and its occupants.
Tips to improve the public housing environment
Your building doesn’t have to be green or LEED certified to have a healthy environment. In fact, resident education is a great low-cost first step towards improving public housing environments.
Teaching residents simple things, like opening windows for fresh air, vacuuming slowly for better results and running the bathroom exhaust, can improve air quality at basically no cost. Let them know high humidity levels can cause mold and dust mites, while low levels aggravate breathing problems. Providing residents with indoor humidity monitor weather stations is a great low-cost way to keep them aware of environmental conditions.
To control temperatures, use limiting thermostats that keep temperatures at a moderate level—74°F during summer months and up to 75°F in winter. Educate residents to not overheat or overcool and to use blankets and robes to stay warm when units are cool.
Lastly, remind residents to turn off lights and electronics when not in use. Encourage them to open curtains and blinds during the day and rely on natural rather than electric light. Set up an LED replacement program to assist tenants when old lamps burn out. LEDs improve light quality, reduce latent heat and save energy.
Educating residents and helping them put these indoor environment tips into action will lead to a better quality of life in public housing while reducing total operating costs.
To read more about the Harvard study, click here
Mary joined Johnson Controls in 2007 as director of public housing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the design, engineering, procurement, construction, operations, measurement and verification, and management of energy performance contracts in the affordable housing sector.