ENVR E-119C: High Performance Buildings for Occupant Wellbeing
In recent years, high performance green buildings have gone from fringe to main stream. Organizations and municipalities around the world have started requiring elements of green building on new construction and major renovations, green materials and equipment are abundant in the marketplace, energy disclosure ordinances are being adopted, and green building rating systems and standards are becoming part of the popular vernacular. Commitments made at COP 21 in Paris ensure this trend will continue over the next decade or more. We still have a long way to go and there is lots of room for improvement in the way we design, build, and operate our buildings, but there is definite movement in the right direction. While there is increasing support for green building, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions receive the bulk of the attention. There are many reasons for this: energy savings are relatively straightforward to quantify and verify and are easily translated into financial savings and returns on investment while global climate change is disproportionately affected by the built environment. Energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions are extremely important, but green building is an umbrella term that incorporates best practice and aspirational building design, construction, and operations strategies that are good for both the planet and people. This course exclusively looks at the impact of the built environment on people and demonstrates how green buildings can improve occupants' health, comfort, and productivity. It attempts to answer two questions: What makes a building healthy, comfortable, and productive for its occupants? How can we influence design, construction, and operations to ensure healthy, comfortable, and productive buildings? Students learn about occupants' interaction with light, color, sound, temperature and humidity, toxins and contaminants, plants and nature, and food and water. We review the most recent research in these areas and identify where additional research is needed. We also go through relevant green building standards, codes, and rating systems and discuss their applicability, strengths, and weaknesses. Students are introduced to design principles and tools for the design of healthy, comfortable, and productive facilities. Case studies demonstrate strategies to improve the occupant experience in office buildings, hospitals, schools, and residential buildings. Students leave the class with an understanding of these complex issues and are able to comfortably discuss setting goals and evaluating performance related to the occupant experience.