Healthy Buildings

HP Sign

Whenever I think about being healthful, I almost always think of it in terms of nutritious food, exercise, etc. So I was rather surprised when I saw a sign from my employer’s landlord about “healthful buildings.” which included a notation about being simultaneously sustainable and healthy. The landlord had joined an organization called the “Healthful Buildings Partnership”. This partnership seems to go beyond the usual steps of recycling and energy conservation by featuring how the physical environment of a building can help provide good health outcomes. They seem to be focused on what are called “building services”–that is, the daily activities to maintain a building once it is actually built and occupied. A large part of the idea is that operating a building in an environmentally friendly way makes for a healthier environment to be in all day.

This is especially noticeable when indoor air quality is measured. A variety of studies (summarized on the site) spotlight the benefits of improved indoor air quality beyond stable and comfortable temperature–not least enhanced worker productivity due to better air to breathe. Another major part of operating a building is cleaning it. I discovered that there is actually a GreenSeal standard (GS-42) for commercial cleaning services. This standard details numerous requirements for cleaning services aspiring to be verified as environmentally friendly service providers. GreenSeal is also widely known for “daily use” products like paper towels, hand soaps, and household products.

I had heard of GreenSeal before. Another standards organization listed on the Healthy Building Partnership site that I had heard of before is the US Green Building Council. The USGBC maintains and updates the well-known LEED green building standards. These standards provide a recognized blueprint for constructing and renovating buildings in an environmentally friendly manner.

It would not surprise me if the landlord in question (Brandywine Real Estate Trust) used LEED standards when they fitted out my employer’s space. They have implemented a wide variety environmentally save practices in their property management–as have other commercial landlords in the area. The fact that Brandywine joined this group is not particularly surprising. I was surprised both that such a group exists and that they wanted to carry their sustainability message to the layperson (like the average employee coming to work). While I have long paid close attention to the market benefits that can come from sustainability, it was really nice to be inspired to learn a little more about the potential health benefits as well.

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