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‘We now understand how building design and IAQ influence our health’

Harvard MD says current building investment neglects the powerful influence of indoor pollutants

| | Nov 14, 2018 | 4:38 pm
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Dubai, UAE, 14 November 2018: This is an exciting time to be in the building profession, said Dr Stephanie Taylor, MD, Harvard Medical School, Founder, Taylor Healthcare Consulting, pointing out that key stakeholders now have the ability to more accurately understand how building design and indoor air management influence our health. This ability, she said, comes from three things.

The first is advances in monitoring the indoor air quality through building management systems. Secondly, Dr Taylor said these new tools enable us to detect tiny microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi) in and on our bodies and in the built-environment. “These microbes, most of which were previously undetectable, can either support our health or cause disease,” she added. “We now know that the building design and indoor air quality act as evolutionary forces on this complex and interactive microbial ecosystem.” Third, Dr Taylor highlighted computer aided statistical analysis programmes that can sort through large datasets and reveal correlations between patient outcomes, in addition to overall occupant health, and the built-environment. “Because of these new tools, the resulting insights and discoveries enable us to manage the indoor environment to promote the health, productivity and learning of all occupants,” she said. “Conversely, we can mitigate many infectious diseases, worrisome trends in chronic diseases and alleviate the suffering from allergens.”

Despite these tools being at the disposal of stakeholders, Dr Taylor said that decreasing energy consumption is still the emphasis in designing and managing buildings. “While this is good for controlling outdoor pollution and other atmospheric consequences of burning fossil fuels, we are neglecting the powerful influence of indoor pollutants,” she said, adding that this is evident in most new developments, as well as in retrofit efforts. Citing misconceptions that may continue to drive such thinking, Dr Taylor said that many stakeholders believe that “if we cannot see, smell, taste, hear or feel something, it is not important. The building does not really influence patient outcomes and that bacteria and viruses are all bad.”

Sharing her professional opinion, Dr Taylor said that the guidelines for healthcare facility design and operation as published on the Dubai.gov website are quite good. However, she added, “There are new research findings showing correlations between indoor air management and improved occupant health (better patient outcomes and decreased clinical staff absenteeism), which are not included in the hospital design and management guidelines.”


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com

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