As we continue to improve energy performance, acoustics, comfort and aesthetics in our buildings, we are left with the challenge of quantifying the impact of these practices and how much they influence our quality of life.
This is a needed validation of sustainability – evaluating the effects that improving systems has on the occupants over a period of time. While we are preaching the gospel to improve the performance of our buildings by including more natural light, better indoor air quality, improved acoustics and overall comfort are we quantifying how these changes improve employee or student performance in an improved environment?
For example, we have a need for connectivity. Older buildings were not built to provide ample natural light needed by people. Workers who sit in cubicles with no window tend to feel disconnected because they lack connectivity. Think about it when you enter a room, do you take a seat that enables you to look out a window?
Are we adequately documenting whether:
- Students test scores improved because they could hear the teacher better?
- Worker productivity increased because they had access to natural light?
- Absenteeism decreased because of improved indoor air quality?
Some decision makers will argue that there are only two kinds of decisions: rational (based on facts) and irrational (not based on facts.) I would suggest they change these terms to fact-based and faith-based. In our private lives we make decisions based upon faith all the time and we are completely comfortable doing so. I think we need to develop more data to help less confident decision makers defend their faith- based decisions with some facts. If we are successful, eventually some of these decision makers will develop enough confidence to be truly innovative.
Are there other ‘quantifiables’ that we should consider to justify the decisions we are making now and in the future? I would like to hear your thoughts?
Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation