Technology And Data’s Impact On The Future Of Healthy Buildings

by Creating Change Mag
Technology And Data's Impact On The Future Of Healthy Buildings

Paul Scialla, founder and CEO of Delos. Paul is an expert on indoor environmental quality and healthy buildings.

The growing demand for healthier buildings in a post-pandemic world is driving improvements in technology and data collection. This will transform commercial real estate and benefit owners, office workers and residents alike.

As the founder and CEO of a company that offers indoor environmental quality (IEQ) solutions, I believe emerging technology has the potential to turn any building into a smart building while providing a steady stream of useful data on IEQ. The insights gained from metrics and monitoring related to occupancy, ambient noise, temperature zones, humidity, pollutant levels and energy use can make buildings healthier, reduce energy consumption and decrease operational costs.

How Data Can Optimize Working Spaces

With hybrid work models increasingly becoming the norm, knowing exactly how and when a space is used offers the ability to optimize operations and expenditures in a more targeted and efficient manner. Data can lead to design and usage upgrades and provide options for employees to work where they are most comfortable. It also informs localized solutions that directly impact occupant health, well-being and comfort rather than more expensive, large-scale adaptations that may have less impact on the users of the space.

For example, it may be more cost-efficient and more effective to use localized air purification in huddle rooms and other high-use areas instead of installing a new HVAC system for the entire space. Similarly, detecting differences in temperature at desk level versus ceiling height can point the way toward energy savings as well as more comfortable and productive employees.

Additionally, even older buildings can implement significant upgrades that make them healthier—without the expense and disruption of a full infrastructure overhaul.

Why Owners And Operators Should Care About Building Health

Owners and operators of office buildings and residential properties are under increasing pressure to meet tenant expectations for healthy buildings. The pandemic and recent scientific research have raised awareness of the links between indoor air quality (IAQ) and other indoor environmental factors on physical and mental health, as well as productivity and cognitive function.

The increasing demand for health and wellness features in office buildings and other workplace settings also aligns with the heightened focus on corporate compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. The recognition that health and wellness fall squarely within the “S” category of ESG is motivating calls for action at multiple levels.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal for healthy lives notes that even small businesses can “contribute to achieving healthier societies.” The World Health Organization says that “all workers have a right to a safe and healthy environment at work.”

Financial regulators are also raising expectations. The European Union’s new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which took effect in January, requires reporting companies to disclose information on working conditions and their impacts on human health. The Securities and Exchange Commission is working on similar requirements, and SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has suggested that the requirements could include metrics related to worker health and safety.

How To Measure The Quantitative Benefits Of ESG Compliance

Quantifying the social aspects of ESG can be challenging, but I believe the benefits are well worth the effort.

If you accurately measure IEQ, you can provide data to support healthy building claims to help attract and retain employees. It is not enough to claim to have a healthy workplace; employees want evidence. Building owners and operators can provide that evidence by offering full transparency on workplace conditions and providing real-time data on various aspects of IEQ.

Measuring IEQ can also guide future innovations because what is measured can be improved. You can’t determine where you need to go if you don’t know where you are. Work to catch air quality issues early so they can be addressed quickly—a benefit that can be particularly important because of the well-established link between poor indoor air quality and the transmission of airborne viruses and other pathogens.

We still have a lot to learn about the nexus between health and indoor environments, but we know enough that there is no excuse for inaction. I believe that the future of healthy buildings—and the health and wellness of the people who occupy them—will be significantly enhanced by technology and measurement. The time to embrace that future is now.

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