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Last edited 22 Feb 2021
Building Back Better: Health
In its work to provide resources for the construction sector, BREEAM has created the online briefing hub, ‘Building Back Better with BREEAM: Supporting the green recovery’. The hub gathers together a collection of briefing papers that reflect BREEAM’s position on important issues.
As advocates and enablers of healthy places and spaces for decades, BREEAM is as relevant now as it has ever been, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shone an even brighter spotlight on the importance of health and wellbeing in the built environment. To support this, BRE has prepared an interactive website, Build Back Healthier: BREEAM in COVID-19 and beyond.
 COVID-19 and the built environment
There is a significant body of evidence demonstrating that transmission of the COVID-19 virus predominantly occurs in indoor and enclosed environments, and it is widely reported that in the developed world, most people spend around 90% of their time inside buildings.
COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on the occupancy rates of many buildings and the use of public transport due to social distancing measures and the significant increase in the number of people working from home. This shift in working patterns highlights the critical role that buildings and infrastructure play in supporting people’s health, safety and physical and mental wellbeing.
Since 2015, there has been increased international interest in this topic from all parts of the construction and real estate sectors. One of the key drivers has been the international adoption in 2015 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Goal 3 specifically focused on ‘good health and wellbeing’ with an aim to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages’. Initiatives have helped to provide accessible resources that highlight the scientific evidence for - and benefits of - designing ‘healthy’ buildings.
 Building back healthier
The first BREEAM standard, introduced in 1990, included requirements that promoted good indoor environmental quality (IEQ) such as lighting, temperature, noise and air quality. A formal and standalone ‘Health and Wellbeing’ category was subsequently introduced into the 1998 version in recognition of the importance of an integrated approach to sustainability and health. Since that time, BREEAM has continued its evolution to meet future built environment related health and wellbeing needs.
Through third-party assurance, BREEAM is establishing measures to ensure that critical issues, such as ventilation, thermal and visual comfort, safety and air quality, are addressed at both construction and operational stages. The purpose of this measure is to develop and evolve science and operations to drive better outcomes for building users, communities and wider stakeholders, bringing forward the next generation of services in a more connected, more data driven world.
 Collaborative efforts
The suite of health and wellbeing related issues covered by the BREEAM portfolio align with the six principles of the World Green Building Council’s Health & Wellbeing Framework, which was introduced in November 2020. The principles also correspond to themes covered by BREEAM’s ‘Building Back Better’ initiative, in particular; Social Impact, Resilience, Natural Environment, Net Zero Carbon and Circularity, and the proposed category structure for the next generation of BREEAM services.
The protection of health must go hand-in-hand with protection of the planet. BREEAM welcomes the acknowledgement of this within the World Green Building Council’s Health and Wellbeing Framework and looks forward to continuing to work with others to drive positive built environment health outcomes.
In addition to BREEAM initiatives, the organisation is actively collaborating with the International Well Building Institute (IWBI) and the Center for Active Design (CfAD) in an effort to improve the assessment processes of each organisation to make it more efficient for clients and project teams. The WELL Building Standard is administered through IWBI and Fitwel is overseen by CfAD.
 BREEAM health and wellbeing updates
The organisation’s ‘Health and Wellbeing Strategy’, introduced in 2016, is serving as the basis for BREEAM’s approach to this subject in a post-COVID-19 world. The three key focus areas identified in 2016 (health and safety in the construction process, occupant health and wellbeing, and neighbour health and wellbeing) continue to be relevant and will influence BREEAM’s coverage of this issue.
BREEAM will continue to encourage a holistic consideration of a wide range of sustainability issues in order to address potential conflicts and trade-offs between improved health and wellbeing outcomes and other environmental impacts such as increased energy consumption and resource use.
Find out more at this link.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Assessing health and wellbeing in buildings.
- BREEAM USA and Fitwel.
- BREEAM USA In-Use Version 6.
- BRE Global and The Center for Active Design expand partnership.
- Building Back Better: Circularity and BREEAM.
- Building Back Better: Net zero carbon and BREEAM.
- Building Back Better: Resilience.
- Building Back Better: Social impact.
- Building back better with BREEAM.
- Coronavirus and the construction industry.
- Indoor air quality.
- Indoor environmental quality.
- UN Sustainable Development Goals.
- WELL and BREEAM align.
- WELL Building Standard.
- World Green Building Council.
 External resources
- BREEAM, Building Back Better with BREEAM: Supporting the green recovery.
- BREEAM, Build Back Healthier: BREEAM in COVID-19 and beyond.
- BREEAM, Circularity and BREEAM.
- BREEAM, Encouraging positive social impact and equity using BREEAM.
- BREEAM, Encouraging resilient assets using BREEAM.
- BRE Group, Net Zero Carbon and BREEAM.
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