Lindsey WELL BlogFor this blog Lindsey Malcolm of XCO2 discusses considerations of building services engineers and the potential role of simulation in catering for health and wellbeing in the building industry.

Health and Wellbeing. A phrase conventionally connoting to rhyming proverbs about the doctor-dodging power of a daily apple. Yet the proverbial days of the catchphrase are seemingly behind us, as ‘Health and Wellbeing’ is escalating into the latest buzzword within the building industry.

Our clients are demonstrating a growing demand for office spaces, retail areas and homes that enhance human health, productivity, and quality of environment. A business case for investment in health has driven interest in the commercial sector, and attention to this new industry buzzword in the retail and residential sector signifies this isn’t a short-term fad.

The vision of Health and Wellbeing is the long-term facilitation of productive and comfortable environments for the building occupant. Well-designed and operated environments should inspire conscious and subconscious positive lifestyle choices, resulting in healthier, more productive building users.

Considerations for design and beyond

Human health and wellbeing can obviously be impacted by an infinite number of factors; however, it is easier to consider if we chop this abstract concept into tangible and quantifiable chunks. Several core categories have been identified within the industry covering a broad spectrum of health and wellness drivers and indicators. These range from environmental (air quality, water quality, lighting) to behavioural (nourishment, fitness and lifestyle choices, working patterns and stress management).

As building designers, it is obviously outside our area of potential provision to shape to dietary and fitness of our building’s user. But implementing health and wellbeing into buildings is a holistic concept, and will have tangible effects on areas within our scope (see Figure 1).

The adjustment for engineers to consider is:

As building designers, it is obviously outside our area of potential provision to shape to dietary and fitness of our building’s user. But implementing health and wellbeing into buildings is a holistic concept, and will have tangible effects on areas within our scope (see Figure 1).

The adjustment for engineers to consider is: shifting our focus from the working of the building to the living of its user.

This shouldn’t be viewed as a trade-off against conventional design considerations such as energy efficiency or carbon emissions – our aim should be to adapt our existing solutions to improve our output for the people who will inhabit the building. This may involve throwing rules of thumb out of the window, or being guided by a forthcoming set of industry benchmarks – only time will tell. But for now, what we do know is that demand for healthier buildings is increasing, and we must respond accordingly to these requirements from our clients.

The Role of Simulation

Modelling and simulation support building design. Therefore, in order to improve our building design with occupants in mind, there is clearly opportunity to integrate cutting-edge areas of building simulation technologies.

Areas that could benefit from a simulation-based predictive approach could include:

  • Utilising CFD to assess indoor air quality;
  • Performing discretised zonal analysis of thermal comfort for individual occupants;
  • Performance and feasibility of different ventilation strategies;
  • Moisture and condensation management;
  • Reverberation and acoustic impacts;
  • Measuring and design ambient and circadian lighting.

An exciting assortment of modelling prospects; however, it is important for us to remember that modelling and simulation should support building design, rather than instructing. Particularly for health and wellbeing, where the benefits of a well-designed healthy building can be negated by poor operational use and user behaviours, the simulation of predictive conditions is less significant for design than other areas of the building industry.

And on a practical note, the feasibility of modelling so many different elements of building services is questionable – in terms of both metric limitations and issues on cost and resource effectiveness. Could an industry-wide interest in healthier buildings facilitate interest in the development of new metrics, as a way of regulating a better standard of living? Possibly so. Yet until that day comes, let us remember that simulation used for health and wellbeing should be taken with a pinch of salt – not too much salt, mind.

A healthy future for the industry

Simulation is a fantastic instrument to demonstrate the tangible benefits of health and wellbeing application. But let’s not forget the ultimate goal of the health and wellbeing – whether it be assessed through WELL or loosely ingrained concepts – is to facilitate a productive and comfortable built environment. Simulation can certainly be used to deliver this, but it cannot be considered a one-stop exercise. It must remain a tool to support operational-focused design and help to enforce the positive behavioural changes we are designing into our buildings.

As the health endemic continues to infect the building industry, a new ‘normal’ standard of building will emerge, requiring innovation and flexibility from all parties involved in the creative process to work with new concepts and metrics. As engineers and simulation specialists we can emphasise a greater focus on occupants, ensuring the holistic approach to health and wellbeing required to make a tangible difference to quality of life.

And as our building designs advance in the enablement of healthy living, our old proverb may just need a re-write. Forget the apples, dodge the doctor; it’s the engineers keeping illness at bay.

+3.8°C in Brussels by 2080!

Posted : September 15, 2016 by Johan Haeberle

This morning, a client called me and asked for some help. He needed to generate future weather files for a BREEAM certified project in Brussels (necessary for HEA04 – Thermal Comfort credit). I was happy to lend a hand! The methodology is to use the climate change world weather file generator named CCWorldWeatherGen. It uses […]

What do you get when you challenge nine interdisciplinary teams to design a net zero (or below) 50,000 ft2, 3-story Outpatient Health Care facility in Omaha, Nebraska? You get ASHRAE’s Lowdown Showdown, an energy modeling competition that showcases the talent and innovation of those in our industry using building performance analysis software. Last year, Team […]

IES shows off the best of British

Posted : September 2, 2016 by Suzanne

Russia’s largest retailer approached IES recently to ask for help in designing significantly better performing buildings – the result a UK 4-day study tour led by our Business Development Consultant for CEE, Guy Eames. “Britain is one of the leading countries when it comes to high performance or “green” buildings”, boasts Guy, “IES’ technology highlights […]

All Good Things Come in Threes…

Posted : August 15, 2016 by Karen Duffin

They say all good things come in threes and that certainly seems to be the case for us here at IES right now as we recently found out that we have been shortlisted for – not just one – but three awards! We are delighted to announce our place as finalists in the following award […]

In our last article on project management, we called upon the famous words of Mike Tyson to discuss design team management and achieving your desired certification. This time we’ll put our boxing analogies aside and instead focus on the insight and knowledge of the team behind IES TaP, our online project management system. They’ve come […]

What next for building design? WELL?

Posted : July 25, 2016 by Suzanne

Health & Wellbeing is the new frontier for making our buildings even better. A rich body of academic research and business case studies have arisen over the last five years, showing the physical, physiological, cognitive, health and wellness benefits of positive interactions between Humans and the built environment. The WELL standard is a specific example […]

For many, city living has it all and is the best place to live. This belief can be attributed to common themes; Access to work place, educational, medical, retail and leisure facilities Transport links and reduced travel times Cultural benefits with social possibilities and networking With this, many developers still see building development in city […]

In January 2016, the IES team, alongside special guest speaker Jean Carriere of Trailloop, hosted another instalment of our popular IES Faculty BIM webinar series. The event provided an update on our BIM4Analysis strategy and interoperability development work. Based on participant feedback from the event, we compiled the following list of FAQs which have been answered by our experts. You […]

1 2 3 4 5 36

Featured Video