The sustainability agenda is growing. Jade Lewis, Director of Advocacy at Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland, discusses why sustainability is so much more than energy efficiency.
Policy has focused on energy efficiency and carbon reduction in the last few years, but we need to look further than this when designing sustainable buildings. Buildings should also improve comfort, health and wellbeing, not to mention reducing environmental impact.
Until recently, measuring health and wellbeing in buildings has been subjective, but research, such as the UKGBC’s ‘Health and Wellbeing in Homes’ report, shows that, given the choice, 90% of homeowners and renters of the 3,000 Saint-Gobain surveyed would want a home that doesn’t compromise their health and wellbeing. Homeowners too are beginning to see that there should be more to a comfortable home than low energy bills.
There are many elements that contribute to sustainable, healthy buildings, and energy efficiency is just one of them. How many of us have been disrupted by the noise of neighbours at home? Or how many of us have needed to turn lights on inside our homes even in the daytime? It’s when we notice these sorts of things that we begin to question just how comfortable a home is.
A holistic approach to building is the key to sustainable building, with no one design criteria more important than another. It is quite common for example, for some new builds to reduce the size of windows to increase thermal efficiency. Although homeowners may feel financial benefit from lower energy bills, research suggests that natural light can increase productivity, as well as improve sleep duration and quality. If innovative insulation materials are used, there is no need to compromise visual quality. In addition, such materials would also provide added protection to mask unwanted sounds from neighbours, or the outdoors, contributing to improved audio comfort in buildings.
This is why Saint-Gobain has created a whole house building standard that prioritises the health and wellbeing of occupants. MULTICOMFORT building design seeks to create buildings that keep people comfortable while minimising negative environmental impacts. The concept takes a holistic view of the different areas of comfort and ensures a correct balance of these factors to create a building we’re happy to occupy and contributes to our health and positive sense of wellbeing.
MULTICOMFORT buildings optimise the senses: feel by providing optimum thermal comfort, see by ensuring excellent visual comfort, breathe through delivering outstanding indoor-air comfort, and hear by offering the best acoustic comfort. The MULTICOMFORT building concept outlines set design criteria to achieve each and all of these four comforts. These surpass existing building regulations, incorporating the energy efficiency and thermal comfort standards set by Passivhaus and introducing new standards in audio, indoor-air and visual comfort to give the building user the ultimate experience of comfort.
We have recently completed the first MULTICOMFORT building in the UK, a multi-use sports hall at The King’s School, Worcester. Use of the standard will mean that the building is sustainable, economic to run, and will provide a quiet, comfortable and healthy environment for students, teachers and visitors, through the use of the right building materials.