February 15, 2019
New Standards and New Frontiers for Healthy, Sustainable Living
by Erin Johnson
Here’s one thing you can count on for sure: Sustainable and green building isn’t going away.
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Here’s something you can’t: Exactly what “sustainable and green building” will entail moving into the future.
In the fenestration industry, we’ve been working toward improving the thermal performance of windows and doors for as long as we’ve been making them. And for a long time, trends toward “sustainable and green” building were largely synonymous with “energy efficient.”
But that’s changing, as some new benefits come to light that are a direct result of modern, sustainable building practices and materials.
New Benefits. Take daylighting, for instance, a design technique made possible through the use of high-performance glass in sustainable structures. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review shows “access to natural light” and views of the outdoors as the No. 1 desire for 1,614 North American workers. Meanwhile, 47 percent of employees felt not having access to natural light made them tired, and 43 percent said lack of light made them feel gloomy at work. On the flipside, proximity to natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, was associated with a 15 percent increase in well-being and creativity, and 6 percent higher productivity.
Also notable are the potential benefits of smart glass. A study by Cornell University for View investigated the health benefits of dynamic glass that optimizes indoor natural light while reducing solar heat gain and glare. The results revealed 56 percent less drowsiness, 63 percent fewer headaches and 51 percent less eyestrain. The same study also showed that workers with access to outside views and natural light were 2 percent more productive—the equivalent of an additional $100,000 of annual value for every 100 workers.
The takeaway here is that sustainable building practices don’t just save energy—they optimize environments that allow occupants to be happier and healthier. And they can help optimize expenses for business and property owners—another study has found that net effective rents average 3.7 percent higher in LEED-certified properties in the U.S. than in similar non-certified buildings.
New Standards. In light of these benefits being linked with efficient and sustainable building practices, the broader building and construction industry seems to be trending toward more holistic approaches in some of the most innovative buildings popping up around the globe.
Take a look at the WELL Building Standard, which bills itself as the “premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.” It evaluates not just sustainability, but indoor air and water quality; the availability of nourishing food for occupants; thermal, acoustic, ergonomic and olfactory comfort; and more.
Next, there’s RELi, a compilation of design criteria that places the focus on long-term resiliency of modern structures. “The current need for resiliency is urgent,” says the organization. “In order to sustain a safe and vibrant quality of life, we must respond holistically to the weather extremes, economic disruption, and resource depletion that are now becoming common place.” In placing the emphasis on resiliency, RELi looks to contribute to better global sustainability by the resulting building of modern structures that don’t require continuous repair and replacement, thereby using up fewer resources in the future.
For fenestration professionals, it’s worth keeping our eyes on some of these new trends and standards and investigating how our products can contribute. Windows and glass are essential—who knows what other benefits we might see with their continued, innovative applications in buildings of the future.
Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Erin.Johnson@Quanex.com.
February 15, 2019 by Erin Johnson
Filed under: building