Peo­ple are less likely to fall sick in ‘green’ build­ings: Study

They are less likely to suf­fer ailments such as fa­tigue, headaches

Today - - FRONT PAGE - Siau Ming En siaumin­gen@me­di­a­

SIN­GA­PORE — Not only are Green Markcer­ti­fied build­ings bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment, their oc­cu­pants are health­ier, lo­cal re­searchers have found.

The find­ings of the 3.5 year study, con­ducted by the Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Author­ity (BCA) and Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore (NUS), will guide changes to the Green Mark schemes go­ing for­ward. A one-year pi­lot of a new set of cri­te­ria that places more weight on “smart and healthy” build­ings will be con­ducted, the BCA said yes­ter­day. Through the Green Mark scor­ing sys­tem, own­ers of ex­ist­ing non-res­i­den­tial build­ings will be en­cour­aged to use ef­fi­cient fil­ters to im­prove in­door en­vi­ron­ment qual­ity and adopt smart-con­trol tech­nolo­gies.

The BCA wants to en­sure the Green Mark scheme, launched in 2005 for build­ings to be more eco-friendly, re­mains rel­e­vant to oc­cu­pants, as well as build­ing own­ers and de­vel­op­ers, said chief ex­ec­u­tive Hugh Lim. “As we bring it for­ward, we’d like to place a more bal­anced em­pha­sis not only on en­ergy sav­ings but also the well-be­ing and the health of oc­cu­pants. And as­so­ci­ated with that is, re­ally, the qual­ity of air that they en­joy in­side Green Mark build­ings,” said Mr Lim. About one in three build­ings here meet min­i­mum Green Mark stan­dards.

The study by BCA and NUS was re­leased at the open­ing of Sin­ga­pore Green Build­ing Week yes­ter­day. It be­gan in Jan 2014 and cov­ered eight Green Mark and six non-Green Mark build­ings be­tween three and 50 years old. Re­searchers ex­am­ined the in­door en­vi­ron­ment qual­ity of the build­ings — which were not iden­ti­fied — and oc­cu­pants were sur­veyed over a week in each build­ing.

More than 360 oc­cu­pants were polled in to­tal, and those work­ing in Green Mark build­ings were more sat­is­fied with the in­door tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity, light­ing, air qual­ity and en­vi­ron­ment. They were less likely to ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms of “sick build­ing syn­drome” such as un­usual fa­tigue, headaches and itchy, ir­ri­tated skin. For in­stance, oc­cu­pants of Green Mark build­ings were about 60 per cent less likely to get a headache than those in other build­ings. The find­ings pro­vide “hard ev­i­dence” that the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion has re­sulted in health­ier and more pro­duc­tive oc­cu­pants, said one of the re­searchers, NUS As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Tham Kwok Wai.

In­door en­vi­ron­ment qual­ity is vi­tal be­cause many peo­ple spend more time in­doors, said As­soc Prof Ra­jasekhar Bala of NUS’ depart­ment of civil and en­vi­ron­men­tal engi­neer­ing, who was not in­volved in the study. Main­te­nance stan­dards and fac­tors such as the lay­out of the of­fice and the use of par­ti­tions (which af­fect the move­ment of air) could be other rea­sons why some build­ings fell short in terms of in­door en­vi­ron­ment qual­ity, he said.

In fu­ture, the Green Mark scheme could also en­cour­age bet­ter of­fice in­te­ri­ors and work­place health pro­grammes, said the BCA. For in­stance, build­ings could be de­signed to get more oc­cu­pants to take the stairs. The BCA is work­ing with the Health Pro­mo­tion Board and will an­nounce more de­tails in the mid­dle of next year.

Build­ing own­ers such as Chan Brothers Travel, which is look­ing to re­de­velop some of its prop­er­ties in the Cen­tral Busi­ness District, said BCA’s ef­forts tar­geted at the well-be­ing of oc­cu­pants are im­por­tant. Chan Brothers’ spokesper­son de­clined to iden­tify its build­ings, but said it wants to at­tain Green Mark cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for its ex­ist­ing prop­er­ties and would take changes to the scheme into ac­count dur­ing its ap­pli­ca­tion.

Data sub­mit­ted to the BCA show that build­ings have con­sumed less en­ergy per square me­tre of space over the past decade. Lev­els to­day are 9 per cent lower than in 2008 for com­mer­cial build­ings, health­care fa­cil­i­ties and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. Ho­tels showed the most im­prove­ment but health­care fa­cil­i­ties’ en­ergy-use in­ten­sity went up by 10 per cent. This was due to grow­ing de­mand for health­care ser­vices and in­creas­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion of op­er­a­tions and equip­ment at health­care fa­cil­i­ties, said the BCA.

In fu­ture, it will be com­pul­sory for com­mer­cial build­ings to dis­close their en­ergy per­for­mance, it added.

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