ResearchHarvard research team defines 9 foundations of a healthy building

How do today’s built environments impact the health, productivity, and wellbeing of the people who inhabit them? Dr Joe Allan is finding the answers.
Content Team6 years ago5 min

A multidisciplinary team of experts from the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – led by Dr Joseph Allen – is undertaking healthy buildings research on how today’s built environments impact the health, productivity, and well-being of the people who inhabit them; as well as how future buildings can help us live healthier lives.

The team has worked hard to present its research in a way that audiences outside academia can understand and incorporate into their work. The result is a useful 9-point summary and checklist that details what they believe to be the foundations of that make a building healthy.

9 Foundations of a Healthy Building

  • Air quality

    Choose supplies, furnishings, and building materials with low chemical emissions. Check for lead, PCBs, and asbestos. Use a vapor barrier. Maintain humidity levels between 30-60 percent.

  • Dust and pests

    Use high-efficiency filter vacuums and clean surfaces regularly. Seal entry points, prevent moisture buildup, and remove trash. Avoid pesticide use.

  • Lighting and views

    Provide as much daylight and/or high intensity blue-enriched lighting as possible. Provide direct lines of sight to windows from all workstations. Incorporate nature and nature-inspired design indoors.

  • Moisture

    Conduct regular inspections of roofing, plumbing, ceilings and HVAC equipment. When moisture or mold is found, immediately address source and dry or replace contaminated materials.

  • Noise

    Protect against outdoor noises and control indoor noise such as mechanical equipment. Provide spaces that minimize background noise to 35db and a maximum reverberation time of 0.7 seconds.

  • Safety and security

    Meet fire safety and carbon monoxide monitoring standards. Provide adequate lighting and use video monitoring, interactive patrols, and incident reporting. Maintain an emergency action plan.

  • Thermal health

    Meet minimum thermal comfort standards for temperature and humidity and keep thermal conditions consistent throughout the day. Provide individual level thermal control.

  • Ventilation

    Meet or exceed local guidelines for outdoor air. Filter outdoor and recirculated air with a minimum removal efficiency of 75% for all particle-size fractions including nano.

  • Water quality

    Meet the U.S. National Drinking Water Standards. Install purification system, if necessary. Ensure residual disinfectant levels are sufficient to control microbes, but not in excess. Prevent stagnation in pipes.


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Content Team

Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.

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