Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) has long been accepted as something you should want for the buildings you own or the buildings in which you work. Doesn’t it make intuitive sense that buildings might impact how we think, feel or perform? I mean if I’m cold, I’m miserable. If I can see outside periodically during the day, I’m in a better mood. If I smell exhaust from the traffic outside, I get a headache. So, it stands to reasons, that the environment I’m in probably helps me or hurts me….on the margin.
What’s becoming clear to people who spend their lives researching the field of indoor environmental quality is the manner by which individuals interact with their building environments has far greater impact that just “on the margin”. Consider the potential opportunities on K-12 building stock.
Kids spend at least 1,000 hours per year in school so it seems that it would be an important environment for us to better understand. Recently, Reilly Loveland of the New Building Institute wrote an article called, “Dreaming the Future: How Zero Energy Design Can Transform the School Environment” which recently appeared in Green School Catalyst Quarterly, Vol III, Fall 2017.
The article provides data supported by significant research. Some of the highlights are as follows:
- Outdoor views result in 10-25% higher mental function
- Day lighting results in students learning 20-26% faster, higher attentiveness and lower levels of hyperactivity
- Good indoor air quality results in 65% fewer asthma cases
Pursuing indoor environmental quality is very easy if pursuing low energy because both strategies are achieved through good, sustainable architectural planning, which typically begins with a robust envelope design. The design of the envelope is THE primary enabler to ultimately controlling the environment. In so much as a well-designed envelope ensures that energy is conserved, that envelope also preserves indoor environmental quality. Is it possible to calculate the benefits of indoor environmental quality?
Well, the article suggests that too much time is spent calculating the benefits of aspirational energy reduction goals and too little time is spent on calculating the benefits of improving indoor environmental quality. With a few conservative assumptions, it’s relatively easy to calculate the hard dollar benefits associated with increased performance, increased productivity, improved health and reduced absenteeism.
Ms. Loveland’s article is a must-read for every school superintendent, higher education president and hospital CEO. In the article, decision makers will find all of the empirical evidence they need to be convinced that they should pursue Zero Energy.
However, don’t forget how important it is to have partners on your project who understand how to maximize IEQ benefits and will not inadvertently trade them off against lower energy goals. In unskilled hands, aspirational energy goals often result in poor indoor environmental quality as many well-intended, sustainability experts rush to solve energy aspirations with expensive, renewable solutions.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is the gift that keeps on giving. Any owner investing in a building, where the performance and well-being of its occupants are important, should be considering the energy and indoor environmental quality opportunities presented in technology-based sustainability solutions available today.