In addition to reducing utilities bills and environmental impacts, green building may also confer health benefits upon occupants.
A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has concluded that green buildings have a positive impact on the health of residents, significantly reducing the incidence of common ailments.
The study, entitled Indoor Air Quality in Green vs. Conventional Multi-Family Low-Income Housing, examined the health changes experienced by public housing residents who moved into buildings equipped with green features following the upgrade of several government-run residential sites by the Boston Housing Authority in 2011.
Researchers found that following relocation residents suffered from 47 per cent fewer “sick building syndrome” symptoms, which include headaches, sore eyes, and itching.
According to study authors Gary Adamkiewicz and Meryl Colton, the primary reason for the reduced incidence of these symptoms were green building upgrades which reduced indoor air pollution, including a shift from gas to electric stoves, and bans on indoor smoking.
Indoor air pollution is the chief cause of many common ailments – particularly amongst low-income households, and can include particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and tobacco smoke. These indoor pollutants can contribute to respiratory ailments such as asthma, or even more serious illnesses like cancer.
The impact of indoor air pollution is particularly strong in the US given the fact that the average American spends 65 per cent of his or her time at home. That impact is even greater in low-income communities, as they are often situated near industrial areas which produce copious amounts of air pollution outside.
The study’s authors point out that in addition to increasing energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact, green building could also provide a highly effective means for achieving widespread health improvements in low-income populations.
“This work builds on more than 10 years of work in public housing and highlights an important opportunity to improve health in low-income communities on a large scale,” said the researchers.