Despite intensive efforts, we are not constructing healthy buildings. More than 30% of buildings in the US have poor indoor air quality, a serious problem given that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors. A 1990 study by the American Medical Association and the U.S. Army found that indoor air quality problems cost U.S. businesses 150 million workdays and about $15 billion in productivity losses each year. The World Health Organization puts the losses at close to $60 billion.
By the year 2010, another 38 million buildings are expected to be constructed in the US, bringing our country’s total to over 100 million. The challenge is to build those new buildings, and renovate the older ones, in ways that reverse unhealthy trends. Fortunately, there are ways we – as consumers, designers, builders and product manufacturers – can respond to this challenge. By building green, we can assist in preserving natural habitats, watersheds, and ecosystems. It can protect air and water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste, all while conserving natural resources. We are creating healthier indoor and outdoor environments.
Green building also has tangible economic and public health benefits. These include lower operating costs via reduced energy and water utility bills, and reduced maintenance and replacement costs due to greater durability of materials. The use of non-toxic materials in residential construction is especially important in protecting children from respiratory and other diseases.
In commercial settings, green building results in improved occupant health and comfort (primarily due to indoor air quality measures and daylight) which in turn leads to higher productivity, less absenteeism, and reduced insurance costs and liability risk.