How can buildings protect human health?

Touch-free entrances and exits are among the features of Immune-rated buildings

Following the pandemic, information released from the US national public health agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stating that people are most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 while indoors, has put greater focus on people’s health and wellbeing inside buildings such as schools, hospitals and offices. This information, coupled with the fact that people spend 90% of the time indoors where viruses such as COVID-19 thrive, has led to the development of the IMMUNE Building Standard™ (Immune).

Developed by Bucharest-based Genesis Property in collaboration with The National Institute for Infectious Disease in Romania, Immune is the world’s first standard to assess and certify health and safety measures, and the immunity of the built environment.

Many buildings, including offices, logistics and industrial sites, sports and recreation centres, educational institutions, retail and hospitality buildings have had to close due to COVID-19 lockdowns. As a result, Immune was developed to enable these properties to re-open and operate safely.

“Immune is a collaborative standard developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a very short timeframe, following an initial investment of one million euros in research, development and implementation,” explains Liviu Tudor, founder of Genesis Property and president of the European Property Federation. “It was developed in Romania in 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with an international team of experts in health, technology, architecture, construction, engineering, and facilities management.”

The low down

The Immune award, issued by the Healthy by Design Building Institute (HDBI) in Brussels, is an evidence-based, third-party certified rating for the built environment. It focuses on providing building operators with information and strategies to monitor, communicate and adjust the health properties of inside spaces, which involves an efficient response protocol in case of viral, bacteriological, or toxicological events.

The standard incorporates a network of devices and technology, specialised equipment, dedicated personnel and new amenities that help to promote operational and health rules in spaces where occupants and visitors interact.

Initially designed for offices, Immune has now been extended to industrial and residential buildings. However, the standard is under constant development, with the aim to extend its outreach to other types of buildings, like retail, hospitality, healthcare and education in the future.

“Immune is a blueprint for the healthy buildings of the future, leading to healthier people, businesses and economies,” says Tudor. “Inspired by technologies and procedures grounded in science, this innovative standard better prepares people, businesses and communities to withstand health threats and has the power to transform the future.”

Tick list

The Immune Assessment Scoring Index is made up of over 135 recommended measures, technical solutions and facility management practices to certify the level of resilience of a building to present and future health challenges.

“Any building owner or tenant can consult the list of measures and implement them – entirely or partially, as needed – in their workspace and follow the Assessment Scoring Index to independently evaluate the level of resilience of the assessed building against health threats,” explains Tudor.

“To receive an Immune certification, an authorised assessor – an independent third-party company specialised in the field of sustainable building design, development and certification – needs to evaluate the building using a scorecard. The assessor verifies how the architectural engineering and design measures are implemented in the building and how the facility management team is carrying out operational practices.”

Each measure that a building has earns a number of points and, based on the total score, a building will be awarded with one of the three Immune labels in order of importance:

Strong – equivalent of 3 stars

Powerful – equivalent of 4 stars

Resilient – equivalent of 5 stars

Defensive approach

Immune aims to safeguard the health of people inside buildings by addressing the risks and implementing health measures such as thermal scanning at entrances, de-densification of outdoor and indoor space, and automatic hand sanitiser dispensers to defend against health threats, such as COVID-19, and mitigate their impact.

“In the face of the pandemic, Immune is not alone in its effort to implement health measures,” points out Tudor. “LEED has deployed several ‘Safety First’ pilot credits. The International WELL Building Institute has presented the Health-Safety Rating, which is a broader system for verifying safety-related issues as they pertain to design and operational policies. Arc Skoru, a USGBC subsidiary, has developed a set of tools called Arc Re-Entry that can be used to assess health measures, occupant experience, and air quality. Similarly, the AIA Re-Occupancy Assessment Tool offers an array of suggested measures and can be used for assessing a variety of facilities.”

While the rapid spread of COVID-19 has been a driving force for change in public buildings and spaces, measures such as Immune will have health benefits beyond the pandemic. Understandably, health has become a priority for people worldwide and it’s the responsibility of developers to address this by identifying problems and implementing solutions to ensure the health and safety of their developments moving forward.

“As a result of COVID-19 and to minimise future pandemics, we need to protect our workforce and the public as best as we can,” says Kevin Wellman, chief executive officer of the CIPHE. “If Immune ensures the safety of plumbing systems to minimise water-borne diseases, then any measure to improve plumbing and sanitation is welcome. It’s important to accommodate how we safeguard the welfare of the public and, in some cases, after a cost benefit analysis, Immune may be one way of achieving that.”

Features of an Immune-rated building

Many aspects within the Immune recommended engineering and design criteria will require involvement from heating and plumbing engineers.

The workplace of the future could include: • Built-in technologies to enhance the sanitisation of indoor spaces.

• Bathrooms to be equipped with bio sanitisers – urinal and WC flushing system.

• UV lighting disinfection and air purification systems installed in the elevator shafts.

• Hydrogen peroxide ions air disinfection installed in the ventilation system to keep the indoor environment as healthy as possible.

• UV-C air disinfection system installed in the AHU unit.

• Humidity comfort control system combined with the extra filtration in the ventilation system to reduce health risks related to fine particles and air pollution.

• High-class water purification system using the reverse osmosis technology designed to remove a large majority of contaminants.

• Walls covered with antimicrobial paint proven to prevent bacteria as well as mould and mildew growth.

• Rounded corners to minimise bacterial deposits in toilet cubicles, crowded areas such as meeting rooms.

• High-class air filters across cafeterias and break out rooms.

• Entry and exit for an Immune building through touchless access control technology. Self-cleaning technology in highly used areas like doors, lift buttons or vending machines.

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