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BESA Conference takes on health challenge

A report from the global management consultancy McKinsey identified human ‘wellness’ as the next “trillion dollar industry” and the role of building engineering in this booming market will be top of the agenda at this year’s BESA National Conference on November 21.

The Conference, which takes place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London, is taking as its overall theme: ‘Competence, compliance and climate change – turning theory into practice’. The extensive seminar programme is designed to set out how the building engineering industry can address the wide range of technical challenges it faces.

Top of the list is the growing pressure to address links between buildings and poor occupant health, well-being and productivity.  Over 3000 new cases of occupational asthma are diagnosed each year at a cost of over £1bn to the taxpayer, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). One in 10 cases of adult onset asthma relate directly to their workplace conditions.

Recent studies have also shown that improvements in productivity of between 3% and 20% can be expected if a worker’s indoor environment is improved, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that outdoor air is frequently used as supply air for ventilation systems despite heavy contamination. It has called for much more effective use of air filters and room air purifiers in homes and businesses.

These and many other factors has led to work starting on the first British Standard designed to establish performance benchmarks for healthier buildings – and BESA has launched a new Health and Well-being in Buildings Group to support this work.

It, along with partner organisations from across the sector, will be helping the BSi map out the required improvements in design, installation and better build quality together with ongoing long-term maintenance. The ultimate aim is to produce a benchmark standard for health and well-being that can be adopted by building services professionals worldwide – and this will be explained and debated during the BESA Conference.

Nathan Wood, chair of the BESA Health & Well-being in Buildings Group said: “The building engineering sector has tended to measure its success in terms of energy performance, and the scrutiny on that will only increase as we look for ways to deliver the government’s vision of a net zero carbon economy.

“However, growing concern about how the indoor environment affects physical and mental health means we have a much wider social responsibility. Indoor air quality can be five times worse than outdoor conditions due to the mixture and concentration of pollutants. The focus on reducing carbon is an opportunity to address quality issues in the widest sense and ensure our built environment is reshaped to be fit for the future.”

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