The importance of designing healthy, sustainable school buildings

Transcript of John Alker’s, From UK Green Building Council, presentation…

…at the opening of the King’s School in Worcester – the UK’s first Multi Comfort building.

People sometimes look at me and wonder why, the UK-GBC, the UK Green Building Council is particularly interested in the health and wellbeing agenda. I look puzzled back at them, because how can a Green building truly be a Green building if it doesn’t work for the people in that building? It seems to me that a building can be zero carbon, zero waste, whatever you like, but if it doesn’t work for the people in it then it’s not really going to stand the test of time. And, it is a topic that is increasingly close to the hearts of Green Building Councils, not just in the UK, but all around the world over the last two or three years.

Part of that is a rhetorical question “is there anything more important than your own health, or particularly those of loved ones of partners and children?” – I suggest not, it’s absolutely essential to who we are and what we do in our lives.

We’ve heard this stat a number of times today, the amount of time we spend inside, and therefore, it’s absolutely crazy that in the majority of cases, our buildings are having this adverse impact on our health, wellbeing and our resulting productivity.

Up till now there’s really been little demand, or little-perceived demand, from building users for anything different, and little perceived value from the construction and property sector therefore to do anything different, sort of ‘the system works thanks very much’, on we go with sub-optimal poorly performing buildings that are not doing the job for users, but things are going to change, and things are changing very, very, quickly.

Secondly, the health and wellness industry is growing exponentially globally, with phenomenal growth, you only have to look at the growth in things like wearables to see how much people care about this and that is not a trend that is going to go away. Read more about the UK Consumer trends here.

There is going to be value, there is going to be demand for buildings that enable their users to be happy and healthy, to be productive. I don’t think this is going to be driven by legislation, in some ways I think that’s a good thing because I think genuine demand from building users will move the market more quickly and effectively than legislation.

But, I do worry, and I hope that the majority of our schools don’t get left behind. A slightly political point, I do worry that the emphasis is on the quality of teaching not the quality of the teaching environment, and it seems to me that those two things go hand in hand.

So, for us, health and wellbeing should be a key aspect of sustainability, a holistic concept of sustainability, it doesn’t mean that environmental sustainability has gone away, we need to marry the two, and for me that’s what Multi Comfort is all about, and that’s what has been achieved in this building. Congratulations to all those involved.