April 1

How to Design a Healthy Building: A Guide For Green Building Professional




Designing a healthy building is not just a trend; it’s necessary today. People spend more time indoors than ever, creating spaces promoting well-being and productivity is crucial.

Architects, interior designers, and construction companies must prioritize health-conscious design principles to create buildings that truly cater to the needs of their occupants.

In this article, we will explore the concept of healthy buildings and offer practical strategies for designing spaces that foster well-being.

The Concept of Healthy Buildings

Importance of Healthy Buildings

A healthy building goes beyond aesthetics and functionality by focusing on the occupants’ physical and mental well-being while minimizing environmental impact.

The significance of healthy buildings is evident in several areas, which we will explore in more detail below.

Healthy Building Benefit #1: Boosting Occupants’ Productivity With Healthy Building

Studies have shown that healthy buildings can significantly improve occupants’ productivity. By providing optimal lighting, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, and acoustics, employees and residents can concentrate better and experience fewer health issues.

This, in turn, leads to higher efficiency and better performance in work and daily activities.

Healthy Building Benefit #2: Reducing Absenteeism

A well-designed healthy building can contribute to reduced absenteeism among occupants. By addressing factors such as indoor air quality, proper ventilation, and ergonomic design, buildings can minimize the prevalence of sick building syndrome (SBS) and other health-related problems that cause people to miss work or school.

Healthy Building Benefit #3: Enhancing Overall Life Quality

Healthy buildings can enhance their occupants’ overall quality of life. By promoting well-being and fostering a sense of connection with the natural environment, these buildings can contribute to improved mental health and happiness.

Spaces designed with biophilic principles and consideration for occupants’ comfort can reduce stress levels and create a nurturing environment.

Healthy Building Benefit #4: Increasing Property Value and Appeal

As awareness of the benefits of healthy buildings grows, demand for such spaces is also increasing. Consequently, buildings prioritizing health and well-being can attract tenants and clients more effectively, leading to higher property values and market appeal.

This can increase rental and sale prices, making healthy buildings a sound investment for property owners and developers.

Healthy Building Benefit #5: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Resource Conservation

Healthy buildings can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by incorporating energy-efficient design strategies and systems. These buildings can minimize carbon footprint and align with global sustainability goals using passive design techniques, renewable energy sources, and sustainable materials.

Additionally, healthy buildings can promote resource conservation through water-saving measures, waste reduction, and recycled or renewable materials.

In summary, the importance of healthy buildings is evident in their ability to boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, enhance life quality, increase property value and appeal, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Architects, interior designers, and construction companies should prioritize these considerations when designing and constructing new buildings or renovating existing ones.



Critical Components of Healthy Buildings

Several factors contribute to a healthy building, including natural light, indoor air quality, biophilic design, acoustic comfort, ergonomics, and spatial organization.

Let’s dive into strategies for designing healthy buildings by addressing these components.

Strategies for Designing Healthy Buildings

Healthy Buildings Category #1: Natural Light and Ventilation

Window Placement

Maximizing natural light is essential for creating healthy spaces. Optimal window placement can improve mood, reduce energy consumption, and promote a healthy sleep cycle. Ensure windows are placed to allow maximum daylight exposure without causing excessive glare or heat gain. Consider building orientation, window-to-wall ratio, and shading devices like overhangs or louvers to optimize daylighting while preventing overheating.

Daylight Harvesting Systems

Incorporate daylight harvesting systems that utilize sensors and controls to adjust electric lighting levels based on the amount of natural light available. These systems help save energy by reducing the need for artificial lighting when daylight is sufficient.

Ventilation Systems

Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining optimal indoor air quality. Incorporate natural ventilation strategies, such as operable windows, vents, and strategically placed openings, alongside energy-efficient mechanical systems like heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) or energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) to ensure adequate air exchange while minimizing energy loss.

Healthy Buildings Category #2: Indoor Air Quality

Low VOC Materials

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals affecting indoor air quality. Choose low-VOC materials, such as paints, adhesives, and furniture, to minimize the release of these toxic substances into the air. Look for products that have third-party certifications, like GREENGUARD, or have been tested for low VOC emissions.

Mold Prevention

Excess moisture in buildings can lead to mold growth, negatively impacting indoor air quality and occupant health. Implement strategies to prevent moisture buildups, such as proper insulation, vapor barriers, and humidity control systems.

Healthy Buildings Category #3: Biophilic Design

Green Spaces

Incorporate green spaces, such as living walls, rooftop gardens, or indoor plant installations, to improve air quality, reduce stress, and promote a connection with nature. Green spaces not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of a building but also contribute to occupants’ well-being by providing opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Water Features

Adding water features, like fountains or ponds, can enhance biophilic design elements by providing a soothing ambiance and promoting a sense of tranquility. Water features can improve indoor air quality by increasing humidity and filtering airborne pollutants.

Healthy Buildings Category #4: Acoustic Comfort

Soundproofing Techniques

Noise pollution can negatively impact occupants’ health and productivity. Utilize soundproofing techniques like acoustic panels, insulation, and double-glazed windows to minimize noise transmission between spaces. Explore innovative materials and solutions to enhance acoustic comforts, such as acoustic plaster or sound-absorbing ceiling tiles.

Appropriate Space Planning

Thoughtful space planning can also contribute to acoustic comfort. Design layouts that separate noisy areas, like mechanical rooms or communal spaces, from quiet zones, like offices or bedrooms. Ensure adequate buffer zones between different functional spaces by incorporating elements like storage rooms or corridors.

Healthy Buildings Category #5: Ergonomics and Spatial Organization

User-Centric Design

Design spaces with the user in mind, considering factors like ergonomics, comfort, and adaptability. Furniture and workspaces should be adjustable to accommodate a variety of users and activities. Opt for ergonomic chairs, sit-stand desks, and adaptable furniture to provide occupants with customizable environments that support their needs.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Design spaces with flexibility and adaptability in mind, allowing for future changes in use or occupancy. Implement modular designs, movable partitions, and multi-functional furnishings that can be reconfigured to accommodate evolving needs and preferences.


Ensure that all areas of the building are accessible to people with disabilities, following the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or similar regulations in your region. Incorporate elements like wide doorways, accessible restrooms, ramps, and elevators to create an inclusive environment for all occupants.

Healthy Buildings Category #6: Integrating Technology

Smart Building Systems

Incorporate smart building systems to monitor and control indoor environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, and air quality. Technologies like building automation systems (BAS) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices can help maintain a healthy environment while optimizing energy consumption.

Implementing smart sensors and controls can also provide valuable insights into building performance, enabling data-driven decision-making and improvements over time.

Building Envelope Optimization

Design building envelopes that minimize heat transfer and air leakage to improve energy efficiency and indoor comfort. High-performance glazing, proper insulation, and air-sealing techniques can significantly reduce energy consumption and contribute to a healthy indoor environment.

Energy Efficiency

Design energy-efficient buildings to reduce their environmental impact and minimize operational costs. Consider passive design strategies, such as solar orientation, shading devices, and natural ventilation, to reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling.

Incorporate energy-efficient lightings, like LED fixtures and daylight-responsive controls, to minimize lighting energy consumption. Utilize renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal systems to generate clean, sustainable energy for the building.

Water Efficiency

Implement water-efficient strategies like low-flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and greywater recycling systems to reduce water consumption and minimize the building’s environmental footprint. Water-efficient landscaping, including drought-tolerant plants and permeable paving, can also contribute to conservation efforts.

By considering these strategies and integrating them into your building design, you can create healthy, sustainable spaces that positively impact occupants’ well-being while minimizing environmental impact.

As you strive for excellence in healthy building design, remember to explore the UGREEN certification, our innovative early-design process certification that inspires mindful creativity and sustainable designs from the first draft.

Healthy Building: Certification and Standards

Healthy Building Certification #1: WELL Building Standard

The WELL Building Standard is an internationally recognized certification that focuses on the health and well-being of building occupants.

Developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), it is a performance-based system that measures, certifies, and monitors built environments to promote human health and wellness. The standard is organized into ten categories: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, and community.

Achieving WELL certification is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to designing healthy spaces and can provide a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Healthy Building Certification #2: LEED Certification

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a globally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED-certified buildings prioritize energy efficiency, sustainability, and occupant health by incorporating strategies that address various aspects of the built environment. LEED certification is available for new construction, existing buildings, interiors, and neighborhood development.

The certification is based on a points system, with buildings achieving Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum levels depending on the number of points earned. LEED certification demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and contributes to higher property values and marketability.

Healthy Building Certification #3: BREEAM Certification

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is another widely recognized green building certification system originating in the United Kingdom. BREEAM assesses buildings based on energy use, water management, health and well-being, pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology, and management processes.

Like LEED, BREEAM certification demonstrates a commitment to sustainable building practices and can help attract tenants and clients who prioritize environmental responsibility.

Healthy Building Certification #4: Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a rigorous green building certification program that aims to create regenerative and self-sufficient built environments. LBC-certified buildings must meet strict performance requirements in seven areas, known as Petals: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.

LBC certification pushes the boundaries of sustainable design and construction by demanding net-positive energy and water performance, stringent material selection criteria, and promoting occupant health and well-being.

In conclusion, certifications and standards like the WELL Building Standard, LEED, BREEAM, and the Living Building Challenge can help architects, interior designers, and construction companies demonstrate their commitment to designing healthy, sustainable buildings. These certifications enhance a building’s marketability and contribute to improved occupant well-being and reduced environmental impact.

Healthy Building: A Conclusion

Designing a healthy building demands a holistic approach that places equal emphasis on occupant well-being, environmental sustainability, and energy efficiency. Architects, interior designers, and construction companies can collaborate to create spaces that elevate the quality of life for their occupants and contribute positively to the environment.

By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, such as optimizing natural light and ventilation, enhancing indoor air quality, incorporating biophilic design elements, promoting acoustic comfort, focusing on ergonomics and spatial organization, and integrating smart technology, professionals in the field can create buildings that are not only visually appealing but also promote physical and mental health.

In addition, prioritizing energy and water efficiency in building design can significantly reduce the environmental footprint and operational costs, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and resource conservation. Pursuing green building certifications like WELL and LEED further showcases dedication to healthy and sustainable design principles, setting an example for the industry and the community.

Finally, don’t forget to explore the UGREEN certification, our groundbreaking early-design process certification that encourages mindful creativity and sustainable designs right from the initial stages. By incorporating the UGREEN certification into your design process, you can stay at the forefront of healthy building design and pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future in the built environment.

By adopting these strategies and committing to the principles of healthy building design, architects, interior designers, and construction companies can create spaces that genuinely enhance the lives of those who use them and contribute positively to the planet.

Healthy Building: FAQs

What is a healthy building?

A healthy building is designed with the occupants’ physical and mental well-being in mind, focusing on aspects like natural light, indoor air quality, biophilic design, and acoustic comfort.

How does natural light contribute to a healthy building?

Natural light improves mood, reduces energy consumption, and promotes a healthy sleep cycle. It is essential to maximize natural light through strategic window placement and design.

What is biophilic design, and why is it important?

Biophilic design incorporates elements of nature into the built environment, such as green spaces and natural materials. This design approach can reduce stress, improve air quality, and enhance occupants’ well-being.

How can technology be integrated into healthy buildings?

Technology can be integrated through smart building systems that monitor and control indoor environmental conditions and energy-efficient solutions like renewable energy sources.

What are some certifications to consider when designing healthy buildings?

The WELL Building Standard, LEED Certification, and UGREEN Certification are popular certifications emphasizing occupant health, environmental sustainability, and mindful design principles. Pursuing these certifications can demonstrate your commitment to creating healthy and environmentally responsible spaces.

How can acoustic comfort be achieved in a healthy building?

Acoustic comfort can be achieved through soundproofing techniques like acoustic panels, insulation, double-glazed windows, and thoughtful space planning that separates noisy areas from quiet zones.

Why is indoor air quality important in a healthy building?

Indoor air quality is crucial for occupants’ health, comfort, and productivity. Improving indoor air quality can be achieved using low-VOC materials, ensuring proper ventilation, and installing high-quality air filtration systems.

How do ergonomics and spatial organization contribute to a healthy building?

Ergonomics and spatial organization focus on user-centric design, ensuring spaces are comfortable, adjustable, and adaptable to various users and activities. Accessibility is also vital to spatial organization, ensuring that all building areas are accessible to people with disabilities.

What are some passive design strategies for energy efficiency in a healthy building?

Passive design strategies include optimizing building orientation, incorporating shading devices, using thermal mass, and employing natural ventilation. These strategies can help reduce energy consumption and improve overall building performance.

Why is it essential to consider the environmental impact of a healthy building?

Considering the environmental impact of a healthy building is vital for achieving sustainability goals and minimizing the strain on natural resources. Designing with energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and sustainable materials can help reduce a building’s environmental impact while promoting occupant health and well-being.



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