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Green: another word for better quality buildings?

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There are many awareness-raising weeks these days – and indeed, we’re no stranger to them ourselves. For all their ubiquity, they are useful for organisations to focus their attention amidst the buzz of day-to-day work. And it’s possible that some are more needed than others.

Take the recent World Green Building Week, which emphasised the package of advantages that the likes of energy efficiency, good lighting and ventilation can bring. It’s very much core human-interest stuff, from happier and more productive office-workers taking fewer sick days, to children upping their attention and grades in schools.

On the health point alone, the NHS lists an eclectic list of complaints under the banner of ‘sick building syndrome’, from nausea to skin irritation. The solutions are about more than just opening a window or sticking a USB electric fan on full whack.

This is where ‘green’ goes beyond energy bills and starts meaning more: the well-being and social benefits racking up alongside those basic cost savings. And it should surely help persuade building owners both public and private that these ‘additional’ benefits may have even bigger monetary benefits. As Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council says:

People only started to take health and safety more seriously a few years ago and now it is an essential part of the construction of buildings. It is about getting to the point where green is just another word for better quality buildings...if you can inform people that by designing and operating a building like this you’re going to get an improvement of four per cent in the productivity of the people, you’re suddenly talking about huge figures.”

A positive is that the green building message seems to be taking mainstream hold. The World Green Building Council’s European leadership award winners make interesting reading, from an extremely water-efficient building in Prague to the overriding sustainability policies of the Basque Country’s capital. Then there are the likes of Singapore putting sustainable building policies at the heart of managing a shift from rural to urban populations – an acute global trend.

It is possible to improve lives a bit while creating places to live, work and educate that cut energy costs and carbon emissions. Let’s hope that while the buildings of the present and future go up, they’re not bringing us down.

Are you sat in a sickly building wishing your bosses would wise up? Would you like to improve your living and working conditions but you’re put off by logistics or cost? We’d very much like to hear your green (or indeed not) building stories in the comments section below. 

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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