Green-building, health, and safety - inextricably woven?

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Security in our built environment positively affects human welfare. In the report 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building, Harvard’s School of Public Health states that “Safety and Security are fundamental to our ability to thrive, coming only after the basic needs of food and water… And buildings play a critical role in keeping us safe and secure”.

Safety and security are a nice fit for BREEAM. After all, it is a green-building certification developed by BRE (Building Research Establishment, a building science non-profit in the UK that was founded in 1921 and continues as a global laboratory for building research. Over the years, BRE has subsumed several agencies, including the Fire Research Station. You could say that life safety and risk management are in BREEAM’s DNA and here is how it is revealed in BREEAM In-Use.

Occupant Safety

HEA 08&10, MAT 03&04, POL 08, 09, 13

Many elements, including accessibility, security, and safety, combine to create greater welfare for those that use a building.  To achieve this, BREEAM focuses on appropriate lighting levels both inside and outside of the building, inclusive design, intruder alarm systems, chemical containment systems, and a pollution response plan.

Why this matters: These provisions protect the basic needs of building occupants by encouraging an environment that; can be fully utilized by able and disabled alike, is secure and well-alarmed, and where exposure to harmful chemicals or pollutants is minimized.

Building Protection

MAT 05&07, MAT 11&12, POL 02

These provisions protect occupants, as well as assets, by addressing building related threats such as robustness from damage, threat of natural disasters, flood risk, fire risk assessment.  

Why this matters:  Fire safety is particularly important since the US has the highest fire losses, in terms of both frequency and total losses, of any modern technological society. The need for protective design of exposed parts of the buildings from human aggressors is an unfortunate aspect of modern life. And natural hazard mitigation is at the core of disaster resistance and supports achieving resilience.

Management

MAN 01-03, HEA 23 & 24

At the crux of safety and security, as well as general occupant health and wellness, is how well an asset is managed. No amount of good design can overcome poor management. Therefore, BREEAM urges information to be disseminated to users via guides, education, information display areas. Further, surveys should be conducted to acquire occupant feedback and procedures in place to address highlighted issues.

Why this matters: Well-constructed infrastructure is not effective if you don’t have educated occupants and a system for gathering feedback and acting on useful suggestions.

Risk takes many forms

In green-building circles, discussion of risk is often limited to resilience. But danger resides in many areas of our constructed environs. In addition to the measures that address safety and security mentioned above, BREEAM In-Use addresses personal risk such as pedestrian and cyclist safety, as well as indoor environment health risks such Legionella in water systems, chemicals in indoor air quality, and exposure to noise.

Julia Craighill

Ensight Consulting, 6911 Maple Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, 20815