Buildings have long been rated for environmental responsibility and energy efficiency, but now there's a health check for well-being
While green buildings are well known for their exemplary efficiency of energy, water and other resources, a new green building movement also considers the impact of buildings on the health and well-being of the occupants. So what constitutes a healthy environment in which to live, work and play?
In BEAM Plus, Hong Kong's green building rating scheme, the impact of buildings on human health and well-being is considered
The hypothesis, expressed by Edward O Wilson in his 1984 book Biophilia, suggests that humans possess an innate desire to seek connections with nature, and there is an increasingly large body of scientific evidence that proves the physical and mental health benefits of being in contact with the natural world. Biophilic design can be accomplished by, for example, providing greenery in and around a building, such as vertical garden walls and indoor planting, as well as maximising views of nature and the penetration of natural daylight into interior spaces so that residents can feel connected with nature while living in an urban environment.
In BEAM Plus, Hong Kong's green building rating scheme, the impact of buildings on human health and well-being is considered. Parc Inverness, the residential development by Chinachem that achieved the Final Gold rating under BEAM Plus, is designed to encourage green and sustainable behaviour of its residents. Soft landscaping comprises more than 40 per cent of the site, with greenery across exterior walls and the rooftop creating a healthy and green living environment. There is even a lush jogging path to help improve the well-being of residents. The building is also carefully orientated to enhance natural views and allow more natural light in the flats.
Some researchers suggest that incorporating biophilic design in hospitals can bring benefits to patients and improve their well-being. In Hong Kong, the Yaumatei Specialist Clinic at Queen Elizabeth Hospital created a 'green backdrop' with various forms of vertical greening at the bridges connecting the new and existing hospital buildings, as well as planting on the balconies and roof. These green features are expected to help with patients' healing and recovery. The clinic has also achieved the Final Gold rating under BEAM Plus.
The Hong Kong SAR Government has led by example by creating healthier spaces, such as the Trade and Industry Tower in Kai Tak, which has achieved Final Platinum rating under BEAM Plus. The tower has a signature 'green ribbon', a belt of vegetation across the facade of the building that makes the new development more welcoming to the people in the Kai Tak community. In addition, the green roof of the community hall next to the tower helps alleviate the urban heat island effect, enhancing the wellness of its neighbours.
Assessed by BEAM Society Limited (BSL) and certified by the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC), BEAM Plus provides a systematic framework to evaluate buildings against a broad spectrum of sustainability indicators. The HKGBC and BSL are working on the upgraded Version 2.0 of BEAM Plus New Buildings, which will place more emphasis on health and well-being aspects in assessments. The new version of BEAM Plus New Buildings assessment is scheduled to launch in 2019.
To find out more about BEAM Plus Platinum and Gold projects, please visit the BEAM Plus Online Exhibition.