Contributed by Adam Pasquale
Sick building syndrome is a medical condition that affects people when they spend time within specific buildings. It can exhibit a variety of symptoms, including breathing difficulties and nausea.
A lot of controversy surrounds sick building syndrome and its possible causes. Many write it off as the mad ravings of the eternal hypochondriac, while others see it as a real medical condition caused by the very places we inhabit.
Whether real or psychosomatic, cases are on the rise. Not only might this condition be avoided, but greener buildings would increase health, mood, and productivity in general.
LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification is one tool for the construction industry to move towards more ecological practices. Pursuing it creates better spaces for us to work and live in. And so LEED can help reduce sick building syndrome symptoms through better design.
What is LEED and how can it help?
LEED is the world’s most widely recognized certification for green construction. Almost any type of building can qualify for it. It provides a framework for the design and construction of “healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green” projects.
LEED offers four levels of certification (Platinum, Gold, Silver and Certified) to buildings that meet a number of prerequisites and credits that cover the entire lifecycle of the building. It ensures optimization of “green practices” both during construction and after completion.
From a practical perspective, a project earns LEED credits by fulfilling a wide range of ecologically sound requirements. It ensures proper removal and recycling of construction waste. It entails the design and implementation of more effective ventilation systems. The literature on sick building syndrome cites poor ventilation among potential causes of sick building syndrome.
What might LEED mean for sick building syndrome?
The construction industry definitely has a green future. Subsequently, through better regulation and recognition of how buildings work in the real world, green building gives toxic spaces less opportunity to adversely affect our day to day lives. Indoor environmental quality helps to improve building value and increases the comfort of its occupants.
LEED encompasses the way people interact with architecture as well as renewable construction methods. In fact, by embracing cleaner energy, less toxic materials, better waste disposal methods, and improved water management systems, LEED provides a cleaner and greener world for everyone.
Put simply, LEED-certified buildings aim for the very highest ecological standards. They reduce the opportunity for sick building syndrome symptoms to appear in the first place. A number of examples exist of how healthier workplaces support healthier employees. The new Apple Park in California, a building that currently meets the very highest LEED certification standards, is a case in point. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the workspaces and parklands are designed to inspire our team as well as benefit the environment,” with a focus on employee health and wellbeing.
Finally, the combination of better design and higher quality construction seems like a win-win situation. LEED tackles not only air pollution through ecologically minded certification but also such issues as sound and light pollution. These two less-publicized factors have recently made headlines for their potential to cause harm. This holistic approach to better buildings will make us all healthier and reduce sick building syndrome symptoms at the source. It will ensure that our environment works for us, not against us.
About the author:
Adam Pasquale is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Recycle
Track Systems, Inc. (RTS). Adam is LEED accredited and a TRUE Adviser and
developed RTS to bring transparency to the waste industry through digital
solutions. RTS helps companies work towards LEED certification through
building lifecycle management, impact reduction, and much more. RTS is also
a B Corporation committed to building a more sustainable world.