Green Buildings and Health

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Green building design is becoming broadly adopted, with one green building standard reporting over 3.5 billion square feet certified to date. By definition, green buildings focus on minimizing impacts on the environment through reductions in energy usage, and water usage, and minimizing environmental disturbances from the building site.

Also by definition, but perhaps less widely recognized, green buildings aim to improve human health through the design of healthy indoor environments. The benefits related to reduced energy and water consumption are well-documented, but the potential human health benefits of green buildings are only recently being investigated.

The objective of our review was to examine the state of evidence on green building design as it specifically relates to indoor environmental quality and human health. Overall, the initial scientific evidence indicates better indoor environmental quality in green buildings versus non-green buildings, with direct benefits to human health for occupants of those buildings.

A limitation of much of the research to date is the reliance on indirect, lagging, and subjective measures of health. To address this, we propose a framework for identifying direct, objective and leading “Health Performance Indicators” for use in future studies of buildings and health.

This article appears in Current Environmental Health Reports, 10 July 2015. Authors: Joseph G. Allen, Piers MacNaughton, Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, Skye S. Flanigan, Erika Sita Eitland, John D. Spengler.

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