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Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Public health

How green buildings can support prevention and control in public health crises

By Andrew Sansom 27 Mar 2020 0

The China Green Building Council has provided an analysis of the contribution of green buildings in the fight against COVID-19.

Available on the World Green Building Council’s website, the article states that community and building-based prevention and control measures have become one of the most important methods of combatting the outbreak. Such measures include self-isolation, community management, elevator disinfection, environmental cleaning, open windows for natural ventilation, etc.

The latest national standard for green building assessment in China is the Assessment Standard for Green Building (GB/T 50378-2019), which was issued in March 2019. The ASGB adheres to the technical route of people-oriented, performance-based and quality-improved, while aiming to implement the concept of green development and expanding the implications of green buildings. The ASGB, says the China Green Building Council, absorbs new technologies and concepts in the development of building technology, and takes into account the safety, durability, health, liveability and accessibility for occupants of all ages.

According to the Council, the criteria for green buildings, as outlined in the ASGB, are beneficial to COVID-19 prevention and control. The positive effects can be summarised into five pillars:

  • Providing the basic functions for epidemic prevention and control
    The requirements of the ASGB that contribute to COVID-19 prevention and control: for building occupants, these include natural ventilation, indoor disinfection and cleaning, and avoiding gathering; for property management, these include waste management, information publicity, information management, air quality and water quality monitoring, stable operation of building equipment, and skills in responding to the epidemic.
  • Providing convenience and facilities for epidemic prevention and control
    Such measures help ensure orderly progress in epidemic prevention and control, says the Council. The requirements include: enabling buildings occupants and site workers to provide quick access to medical equipment and facilities; effective personnel and vehicle control; providing conditions to add relevant signs to alert people; and changing room function when necessary (medical rooms, transitional residential rooms, isolation and observation rooms, supplies storage rooms, etc.)
  • Reducing the risk of infection and preventing cross infection
    In addition to providing the basic functions and convenient conditions for epidemic prevention and control, the building itself should  “isolate” the virus as much as possible to reduce the risk of infection. According to the Council, the requirements of the ASGB in this regard include: controlling the collusion of air and pollutants; controlling the exhaust backflow of kitchens and bathrooms; setting up effective water seals to reduce the risk of virus transmission through drainage pipes and stools; controlling the concentration of indoor particulate matter; optimising the building space and plane layout to enhance the effectiveness of natural ventilation; controlling air conditioning system by zones; and a well-designed site wind environment for dissipation of viruses and harmful gases.
  • Promoting and protecting the health of occupants
    Currently, there is no specific antiviral drug against the novel coronavirus. Nevertheless, the ASGB helps regulate and promote water quality, air quality, human fitness and antibacterial-function building materials in a way that can reduce the risk of occupants contracting the disease and enhancing their ability to resist viruses. The requirements in this area include: the concentration of indoor air pollutants, such as ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene, total volatile organic compounds, radon, PM2.5 and PM10 shall be controlled; moisture condensation shall not appear on inner surfaces to prevent growth of pathogenic bacteria such as mould; smoking shall be prohibited in the building; water safety should be ensured; setting sports and fitness venues to promote physical movement; and using green building material with antibacterial function.
  • Stabilise work and living environment during epidemic prevention and control
    During the period of the epidemic, maintaining a stable work and living environment is essential for prevention and control. The requirements of the ASGB in this area include: ensuring occupants’ health through water quality; and providing convenient public service facilities (supermarkets, vegetable markets, hospitals, and other public service facilities).

In recent times, the development of building technologies in China has seen a growing emphasis on the health performance of buildings emerging; this is highlighted by the introduction in 2016 of the Assessment Standard for Healthy Building (T/ASC02-2016). The China Green Building Council anticipates that as a result of COVID-19, increasing attention should be paid to the health performance of buildings, in order that the built environment can make a greater contribution in responding to major public health emergencies in the future.

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