How to fight the hidden villains in our workplaces – panel

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Anthony Marklund and Adam Garnys

Anthony Marklund (Floth) and Adam Garnys (CETEC) open their collective expertise for discussion. 

Moderator Ben Peacock. 


Ben: How important is the link between education and adoption? How important is getting people to understand what is in the water they drink and the air they breathe and their interest in WELL?

Anthony: There’s always a big disconnect between the property industry and the people on the ground, whether it’s residential or people in office buildings, and I think it just comes down to education and spreading the word. That’s our challenge, to advocate it, so people at the ground roots level demand it more often. 

It’s the low level pollution that can tap away at health and could be causing dementia

Adam: The other thing is there’s more we don’t know and more research coming out regularly. This one came out the other day looking at the link between levels of pollution and dementia. There have been a number of studies now that show if you grow up in a highly polluted city, like London, the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s increases significantly. 

So how does that happen? Scientists are still trying to work that out.

It’s this low level, sub clinical thing – 40 hours a week, 30 years of your life – if you can knock that back by 10 per cent, you are putting your risk of disease later in life at a much lower level. 

“On a day to day basis you feel okay, it’s nothing a cup of coffee won’t fix, but it’s this low level, subclinical stuff that’s happening in the background that we could benefit from long term”

It’s this sort of message that’s hard because on a day to day basis you feel okay, it’s nothing a cup of coffee won’t fix, but it’s this low level, subclinical stuff that’s happening in the background that we could benefit from long term.

Question from the audience: There are so many initiatives for new buildings in terms of WELL. But what about the existing buildings?

Anthony: It’s such an untapped potential. With tools like WELL, Green Star and NABERS IE (indoor environment), it’s the tip of the iceberg for them. One of the biggest problems we have is data. We just don’t have the data on those buildings because it’s mostly the A-grade premium grade that we have good data on. But it will certainly filter down into the mainstream. 

It’s a good question and the intent of WELL is to be used for existing buildings as well, it’s possible to be used like NABERS as an improvement tool over time. For the 98 per cent that is existing building stock we should be using WELL and NABERS IE as a starting point to improve indoor environments of existing buildings.

Adam: One more thing is it’s not only old buildings that are worse than new ones, sometimes it is the other way around. VOCs is a good example. VOCs are much worse in new buildings.  

Question from the audience: I’m interested in the relationship between WELL and NABERS Energy. When designing buildings, with WELL there’s a narrow band of thermal comfort, we have to keep ventilation rates higher, which can have an impact on energy consumption with air moving through the building at a faster rate, for example. Are you seeing an impact on energy from where you are sitting with WELL?

Anthony: It’s definitely something that needs to be balanced. Quite often you can have these conflicting things in sustainable design where if you are increasing the amount of outside air to lower the CO2 levels, for example, if that’s not properly controlled that can increase the energy consumption. This is where it is all about intentional or smart design, making sure there’s demand controlled ventilation so that the CO2 level is just below the level you want to achieve in the building. 

Then with daylight, with bringing enough daylight in, the façade design needs to minimise the additional heat impact of bringing in the additional sunlight in. it’s a careful balancing act. I firmly believe, without looking into it extensively, we can achieve improved NABERS IE and WELL at the same time as NABERS Energy without sacrificing one for the other. 

“In the industry a holy grail is a 6 and a 6. A 6 star NABERS IE and a 6 star NABERS Energy. It can be done and there are examples of that”

Adam: In the industry a holy grail is a 6 and a 6. A 6 star NABERS IE and a 6 star NABERS Energy. It can be done and there are examples of that. It involves a combination of good design, and a fair bit of money, among other things.

Question from the audience: It might be a strange question, but air quality can be affected by fragrances. Do you have examples of where air quality is compromised by aftershaves and perfumes? And how you deal with it?

Adam: Before the day of testing for WELL you need to ask people not to wear perfume or fragrances because it can make buildings fail. That’s from a rating scheme point of view, but from a real health point of view, certainly it does have an impact, I’ve banned them at home. 

You should be looking for the source of the odour, not a masking product. Fragrances are full of chemicals. Even some of the common ones like limonene – which is lemon oil – people have serious allergies to it. And do you need it? I guess that’s the question.

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