Over 40 construction professionals gathered at Green Vision as we kick started our autumn series at Squires Sanders, 2 Park Lane in Leeds yesterday evening, in collaboration with the regional Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers. ‘Healthy Buildings’ was the focus, with an excellent panel of speakers covering the health drivers for sustainable material selection, importance of material selection in driving health improvements in hospitals, schools and offices and some startling research findings presented on evidence of health issues as a result of VOCs in building materials.

Chris Hayes of Skanska presented their ‘Color Palette’ and its application as a tool for one of their projects; the Karolinska Hosptial. Eddie Murphy of Mott MacDonald made a plea for engaging the User and Evidence Based Design as a means to creating better, healthy workplaces and environments. Dejan Mumovic presented a compelling case for an increase in air quality research.

Chris Hayes gave an overview of Skanska’s approach to green building introducing their ‘Color Palette’ and highlighting some impressive materials vetting from toxicity to life cycle impacts being used on the Karolinska Hospital project in Sweden. Chris stressed the importance of an intelligent client and supply chains in reaching ‘deep green’, and indicated that Skanska had pulled out of the USA Chamber of Commerce due to a clash of ethics with their stance on LEED materials, certainly evidence of an organisation standing by its green values.

Eddie shared his experience on Vulcan House and 2 St. Pauls as to the satisfaction levels of the end users of the building and advocated putting the user at the centre of design to over come the User performance gap. Reference was made to the work by Dr. Kerstin Sailor on ‘The generative Building’ and how a building can generate better social exchanges and more productive workplaces as well as enhance and improve the organization working within it. The key message was that in order to understand a building it is necessary to understand the clients, their business and the way in which the building will be used… Perhaps clients would pay more for POE’s if they could see the direct benefit in terms of improved business for them.

Last, but by no means least, was Dejan Mumovic from UCL who shared some of his research findings on air quality within schools in central London.
Schools pose a complex design challenge as they need to perform well over wide range of environmental issues and as children are much more vulnerable to air born pollutants. Dejan showed some striking European figures where the UK is ranked as one of the highest for Asthma in school across Europe. Dejan presented evidence emerging from the European SINPHONIE project, (Schools Indoor Pollution and Health: Observatory Network in Europe) across 22 countries; a complex research project covering the areas of health, environment, transport and climate change, aimed at improving air quality in schools and kindergartens. Evidence captured on two urban London schools (Victorian vs. Modern) linked building design and performance in terms of air quality, to health issues in children. In the heating season, temp ranges from 20-25 indicating overheating in schools, and were also identified as being linked to increases in dermal symptoms and oral symptoms in children.  One key design tip for designers was not to put carpets over under-floor heating, as this results in a breeding ground for bacteria.

A lively Q and A followed covering a variety of issues such as lack of VOC standards, a need for designers to move away from using BREEAM as a design guide, evidence of a growing interest in this area by the Healthcare industry and a need to demonstrate cost savings to Heathcare organizations through designing and delivering healthy buildings, all relevant and topical to construction and the healthy buildings agenda.