The Impact of Buildings on Health, Productivity and Sustainability




PIs: Prof. Joseph G. Allen, Dr. Jose Guillermo Cedeño Laurent
It is well-known and oft-repeated in environmental health circles that we spend 90% of time indoors. Because this constitutes the vast majority of our exposure time, and concentrations of many indoor pollutants are actually higher indoors than outdoors, it follows logically that indoor environments influence our health. Buildings have the potential for both positive and negative impacts on this indoor exposure, and can mitigate the burden of outdoor pollutants indoors. Over 40 years of research on the indoor environment has yielded many insights into building-related factors that influence health, well-being, and productivity. To meet challenges related to energy and materials, while simultaneously providing healthy indoor environments, buildings must incorporate sustainability criteria into every aspect of design, construction and operation. By definition, green buildings focus on minimizing impacts to the environment through reductions in energy usage, water usage, and minimizing environmental disturbances from the building site. Also by definition, but perhaps less widely recognized, green buildings aim to improve human health through design of healthy indoor environments. This class will cover basic principles of high performance building design, construction and operation, and impacts on indoor environmental quality, including chemical exposures, light, noise and thermal comfort. One class each week will be dedicated to lectures on these topics, with case studies and experiences from building practitioners that have successfully incorporated sustainability features in historic and contemporary structures. We will also have guests from across the university (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Graduate School of Design, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University Office of Sustainability). The concepts presented in lectures will be reinforced in the second class each week with field trips, advanced modeling seminars and hands-on measurements of indoor environmental parameters.