Numerous research studies around the world have demonstrated the health and wellbeing benefits of optimally designed buildings.
Why do we need MULTICOMFORT buildings? Because specifying, designing and building healthy, sustainable habitats that help us to live, work and learn more efficiently makes sound sense – personally, commercially and financially.
Here, we review some of the evidence:
“One reason might be that efficiency involves more general factors that perhaps have a less immediate impact than distraction and stress. It can take longer to realise that your general productivity has been affected by a deterioration in the acoustic environment,” explains Aram Seddigh
“Office workers with more light exposure at the office have longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace, according to a study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Employees with windows in the workplace received 173% more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than employees who did not have natural light exposure in the workplace. Workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances. There was also a trend for workers in offices with windows to carry out more physical activity than those without windows. This highlights the importance of exposure to natural light to employee health and the priority designers of office environments should place on natural daylight exposure for workers.”
In healthy offices, we have seen improvements in productivity with better air quality, and we can directly relate these productivity gains to an improvement of the bottom line of the builder, owner, and occupier of that office.
“A seminal study over 20 years ago showed that workers who had window views of nature felt less frustrated and more patient, and reported better health than those who did not have visual access to the outdoors or whose view consisted of built elements only.”
“A comprehensive US study in the late 1990s suggested a link between the physical office environment and retention and recruitment of staff. One of the most significant results was the importance workers placed on the ‘visual appeal’ of the workplace compared to many other factors.”
In the U.S. alone the savings and productivity gains from improved indoor environments have been estimated at $25 to $150 billion per year.
“A study in 2005 found that 99% of people surveyed reported that their concentration was impaired by office noise such as unanswered phones and background speech.”
“New research tapping into the public’s energy saving attitudes and behaviours has been revealed by the Energy Saving Trust in the first of a series of public opinion trackers known as the UK Pulse. The findings from the Ipsos MORI survey of over 2,000 UK respondents show nearly half of householders, 44%, claim to live in homes with draught problems, 37% in homes with condensation problems and 28% in homes with mold. All three issues were even higher among renters.”
“Seminal research in 2003 identified 15 studies linking improved ventilation with up to 11% gains in productivity as a result of dedicated delivery of fresh air to the workstation and reduced levels of pollutants.”
Air tightness affects the entire building envelope and plays a major role in successfully managing heat, moisture and sound.
“Research led by a team at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that a failure by people to ventilate their homes could lead to the development of respiratory problems. The research discovered that adults living in energy efficient social housing may have an increased risk of asthma. Modern efficiency measures are vital to prevent heat loss and reduce energy use, yet some people, particularly those living in fuel poverty, are unlikely to heat a building enough – or ventilate it sufficiently – to prevent the presence of damp and mold, factors that can contribute to asthma.”
In two independent studies, typing performance were shown to increase when the pollution source was removed.
“Not only is noise a clear distraction that hinders office workers carrying out their work accurately and efficiently, it can also have a detrimental impact on health and levels of stress.”
“An analysis of 24 studies on the relationship between temperature and performance indicated a 10% reduction in performance at both 30°C and 15°C, compared with a baseline between 21°C and 23°C – demonstrating the impact thermal comfort can have on office occupants. A more recent study, in a controlled setting, indicated a reduction in performance of 4% at cooler temperatures, and a reduction of 6% at warmer ones.”
“In a 2011 lab test which mimicked an office, a variety of office-related tasks were carried out with the presence of airborne VOCs. Increasing ventilation from 5l/s to 20l/s improved performance by up to 8%.”
“The Environmental Audit Committee believes that air pollution is nearing a ‘public health crisis’, causing nearly as many deaths as smoking. There are an estimated 29,000 deaths annually in the UK from air pollution. Nitrogen dioxide is known to cause inflammation of the airways, reduce lung function and exacerbate asthma. Particulate matter (tiny invisible specks of mineral dust, carbon and other chemicals) are linked to heart and lung diseases, as well as cancer. Some particulate matter lodges in the lungs, while the finest particles can enter the bloodstream, risking damage elsewhere in the body. The report says that traffic is responsible for 42% of carbon monoxide, 46% of nitrogen oxides and 26% of particulate matter pollution, and that many schools that are sited near major roads should fi lter the air coming in to the buildings. The report also recommends that new schools, care homes and hospitals should be built far away from major roads because of the dangers of air pollution.”
“Exposure to extreme heat is already a health issue. Currently, one-fifth of homes in England could experience overheating, even in a cool summer. Flats, which are generally more at risk of overheating than houses, now make up 40% of new dwellings, compared to 15% in 1996. Urban greenspace, which helps to mitigate the urban heat island effect, has declined by 7% since 2001. In the UK, excess deaths from high temperatures are projected to triple to 7,000 per year on average by the 2050’s as a result of climate change and a growing and ageing population.”
“The number of non-decent homes in England continued to decline. In 2013, 4.8 million dwellings (21%) failed to meet the decent home standard, a reduction of 2.9 million homes since 2006, when around a third (35%) of homes failed to meet the decent home standard. Damp problems were more likely to be found in private rented dwellings than social rented or owner occupied dwellings.”
30% of people were willing to pay more for a home that had a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.
Co2 levels: sleep quality improves with lower Co2 levels in the bedroom, along with reported sleepiness and concentration the next day.
A poor sound environment increases the risk of lapses in communication, thus increasing the risk of errors and contributes to an unnecessarily high level of stress that wears on the staff.
Doubling the outdoor air supply rate can reduce illness and the occurrence of the sick building syndrome by ~10 %.
Up to 15 % performance reduction was observed for 3 tasks assessing children's attention and vigilance when ventilation rate was low (1 L/s.person vs 8 L/s.person)
“A meta-analysis in 2006 of 24 studies (including 6 office studies) found that poor air quality (and elevated temperatures) consistently lowered performance by up to 10%, on measures such as typing speed. This analysis appeared to demonstrate that the optimum ventilation rate is between 20 and 30 litres/second (l/s), with benefits tailing off from 30 up to 50l/s. This is significantly higher than minimum standards required, which are typically between 8-10l/s (although these vary considerably by country).”
Marks and Spencer’s Cheshire Oaks location saw high customer satisfaction and a 22% increase in employee satisfaction by enhancing the customer experience through better daylighting, better flow-through of air, and better materials.
“A study in 2011 investigated the relationship between view quality, daylighting and sick leave of employees in administration offices of Northwest University Campus. Taken together, the two variables explained 6.5% of the variation in sick leave, which was statistically significant.”
In a survey of more than 4,000 sixth grade students, those who reported that they had never experienced high indoor temperatures achieved 4 percent more correct answers on a national mathematics test compared to students who experienced high temperatures daily.
Noise has been found to adversely impact reading and writing, and research suggests that chronic exposure to noise
may impact children’s cognitive development.
“A study of workers in a Californian call centre found that having a better view out of a window was consistently associated with better overall performance: workers were found to process calls 7% to 12% faster. Computer programmers with views spent 15% more time on their primary task, while equivalent workers without views spent 15% more time talking on the phone or to one another.”