Juan Palacios on the effect of building quality on tenant health

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Categorie Woningcorporaties

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In this video, Wouter Geerlings and Juan Palacios discuss the value of healthy buildings and indoor building quality. Juan is a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, where he conducted (or conducts) research about the effect of building quality on the health of tenants; an increasingly urgent, but often-overlooked topic.  Juan further proposes a few actions that real estate owners can undertake now in order to make their buildings healthier for their tenants and/or users.  

In this video:  

The difference between healthy and unhealthy buildings (00:58) 

The primary reason to construct buildings is to create an environment that is different and healthier than the outside environment. In large cities, buildings can protect their users from air pollution, whereas other types of buildings can serve to improve the well-being of their users.  In some cases, buildings can actually have an opposite effect and decrease the health and well-being of their users. An example is the indoor air-quality of schools. Juan has seen many examples of schools with very bad air-quality, despite the fact that these environments should facilitate learning and development.   

Research indicates that indoor quality significantly influences the well-being of home residents (03:51) 

Juan has researched the effect of indoor quality on the well-being of residents and users for multiple types of buildings. His research shows that residents of poorly maintained houses, with bad indoor quality, systematically demand more healthcare and experience poorer health. These results are especially apparent for elderly people. Conversely, in cases of renovations or home improvements, tenant health was seen to improve.  

Read more: Conclusions research paper ‘Home is where the health is’ 

Improving air quality of offices reduces health complaints, driving productivity and employee satisfaction (06:45) 

Juan also researched the effect of building quality of offices on the well-being of employees and office users. This research followed the relocation of a group of employees from an unhealthy building to a healthy building. The results indicate that the employees who moved to the healthy building experienced a substantial drop in the number of health complaints – An effect that stayed constant over the long-term and has important implications for the productivity of employees and employee satisfaction.  Previously, improving the quality of buildings was mainly driven by regulation. The results of this research indicate that improving building quality can be seen as a value driver, beyond what is required by regulation. Improvements in technology provide great opportunities to monitor the indoor quality of buildings and make improvements when and where needed.  

Real estate owners should start by actively monitoring the indoor quality of their buildings (12:36) 

Owners of real estate should start with measuring the indoor quality of their buildings. This is an affordable step, which allows them to directly assess key indicators of indoor quality (CO2 levels or particle levels) on a minute to minute basis. One of its key advantages is that it allows real estate owners to directly measure the consequences of investments in indoor quality and substantiate why these investments are being made. Another step that real estate owners can take is to improve the documentation of maintenance and improvements in real estate. This is crucial, as improving the indoor quality and well-being of tenants/residents is a long-term exercise; which only works if systems-in-place also work in the long run.  

Improving indoor quality simultaneously makes buildings more corona proof (20:45) 

It is important to understand that corona is an airborne disease. Juan explains that maintaining a good airflow through proper ventilation can help limit the spread of the disease and keep the tenants healthy. For the building owner, this means that ventilation systems should be running smoothly and are maintained properly. This is nothing new, but corona raises awareness and increases the urgency of making sure that the ventilation systems work properly.  

Future research benefits from improvements in technology and will focus more on the effect of climate change on the built environment (26:35) 

Juan thinks that the research in this area will keep benefiting from improvements in the technology that measure indoor quality. Collaborations between the academic world and real estate owners will also benefit research and accelerate its progress. Another key topic that is already relevant, but will increase in urgency, is climate change. Examples of research questions that will become more relevant address how to adapt the real estate portfolio to heat-stress and water-stress. 

More video’s or podcasts? 

Thank you for watching the video. We have published a number of other videos (in Dutch) that address the effects of Corona. Examples include videos about the effect of Corona on the financials of healthcare organizations and the financials of housing corporations and a video that explores how pandemics affected the housing in the past

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