Your building might be making you sick. Joe Allen can help.

first_img Student projects turn campus into ‘living lab’ Study opens door to better sleep, work, health 9 foundations of a healthy building Allen and a team of experts from the Harvard Chan School turned their research into a checklist that building owners can use. For more information, visit forhealth.org. 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. Looking indoors to health Source: forhealth.org To date the academy has collaborated with more than 50 manufacturers to get them to remove harmful chemicals from their products, and integrated healthier building materials requirements into Harvard’s Green Building Standards. Much of the academy’s work has been informed by exchanges of information with Google, Kaiser Permanente, and Facebook, companies increasingly focused on the environment in their own buildings. The University is one of the early adopters of Portico, a Web app developed by the nonprofit Healthy Building Network and Google that includes a database listing the environmental hazards of more than 2,500 products.Making the caseFor the typical full-time U.S. worker, the office doubles as a second home, and unhealthy air comes with consequences.In a 2011 study, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Environmental Protection Agency examined costs and benefits of improving indoor air quality in U.S. office buildings. The findings suggested that better air quality led to “increased work performance, reduced Sick Building Syndrome symptoms, reduced absence, and improved thermal comfort for millions of office workers.” The researchers also estimated a potential economic benefit of $20 billion.Allen has no doubt about the economic benefits of a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce. What he does worry about is the perception that healthy buildings are too expensive. When companies survey their finances, “many costs show up as a line item in the budget and are therefore easy to track, but the health benefits show up across the entire business enterprise, making it a bit harder to quantify,” he said.In response, Allen and his team crunched the numbers in their CogFX findings. Their report concluded that “doubling the ventilation rate costs less than $40 per person per year in all climate zones. However, the same change in ventilation rate can increase the productivity of an employee by $6,500 a year.” Allen summarized the economic benefits in a piece published last year in the Harvard Business Review.“The challenge for those of us in public health is twofold: produce the science that quantifies these impacts and then make sure health is part of the cost/benefit calculus,” he said. “Businesses track key performance indicators every minute of every day throughout the year to understand how their company is performing. Why not health? Tracking Health Performance Indicators, or HPIs, must be part of corporate strategy moving forward. Their buildings are the perfect place to start.”According to Harvard architect Holly Samuelson, some of that work is well underway.“Yes, absolutely we are already seeing companies getting serious about these topics and investing a good deal of money and time into improving their work spaces to optimize employee health,” said Samuelson, an assistant professor of architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design who studies the energy and environmental performance of buildings.Samuelson, who practiced architecture for eight years and was a green-building consultant before coming to Harvard, is optimistic that health-conscious design will someday be an industry norm, but like Allen she thinks decision-makers need help understanding the math.“In an office building, it might cost $3 per square foot for utilities, while the rent or mortgage might cost another $30 per square foot,” she said. “But the salary and benefits of the employees could cost well over $300 per square foot. So a big challenge is overcoming the first cost in order to invest in better buildings. If we can design buildings that affect performance … that could make a big change in the company’s bottom line.”Another challenge, Samuelson noted, is the need to balance air-quality concerns with conservation efforts. The oil crisis of the 1970s helped usher in a new era of building standards. But the increased efficiency of more insulation, reduced ventilation rates, and locked windows came at a cost — airtight buildings that made occupants sick.Twenty years later, with the introduction of the LEED green-building rating system, designers tried making their buildings more occupant-friendly by increasing ventilation rates and including features such as all-glass facades to enhance natural lighting and views. But many of those buildings used more energy than their “non-green” counterparts, and that problem persists.“I think we need more research to convince building owners, architects, engineers, and other decision-makers of the benefits of working on both,” Samuelson said.Allen is on the case. In a paper published Jan. 30, he and his colleagues studied how buildings’ lower emissions have translated into a reduction of greenhouse gases, which benefits the climate, and a reduction in air pollution.,Informing tomorrow’s buildingsScientific sleuthing is a good fit for Allen, who honed his investigative skills working for his father’s detective agency after college. A biology major, he was headed to a graduate program in environmental science at the University of Pennsylvania when a summer as a Harvard researcher studying household chemical exposures changed everything.“I got hooked by the connection between the environment and health and I knew immediately that this field was where I needed to be,” said Allen. He dropped out of the Penn program and enrolled at Boston University, where he earned his master’s degree in public health and a doctorate of science. Later he became a forensic building investigator in Boston studying cancer clusters, outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease, and chemical-tainted indoor environments. “We are exploring how we design and optimize buildings for health from the start.” — Joe Allen 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. On a recent afternoon in a windowless section of Allen’s lab two colleagues were creating rooms with impressive views. With the help of a virtual reality headset, subjects would be transported to a room complete with a lush living wall and an aquarium filled with tropical fish, or a sunlit corner office that looked on to rolling fields and distant ocean. Over time the work will track the stress responses and brain activity of participants as they are exposed to the different virtual environments, and use computer tests to track a subject’s productivity.Looking to the horizon, Allen sees more designers and builders creating healthy office spaces. He also envisions a day when workers can adjust ventilation and temperature without leaving their desks, and without affecting their officemates. Ideal building temperature is determined by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, which relies on a temperature and relative humidity that 80 percent of people would find acceptable. But that calculation, said Allen, means we are “designing our buildings to a standard that guarantees that one in five will be uncomfortable.”“I think we can do better, especially now that we know how important it is,” he said. “When someone is too hot or too cold, studies show their performance slips. It means disentangling ventilation — how much air you are bringing into the space — from the temperature setting in a building.“It’s the parallel to personalized medicine — personalized indoor environment. This is where we have to go. We have to get there.” Thermal health Meet minimum thermal comfort standards for temperature and humidity and keep thermal conditions consistent throughout the day. Provide individual level thermal control. Renovations to University housing interiors focus on long-term health of students and staff Dust and pests Use high-efficiency filter vacuums and clean surfaces regularly. Seal entry points, prevent moisture buildup, and remove trash. Avoid pesticide use. First round of grants from Campus Sustainability Innovative Fund awarded EDGE OF DISCOVERYFourth in a series of articles on cutting-edge research at Harvard.On his first day as an assistant professor of exposure-assessment sciences at the Harvard Chan School, in 2014, Joe Allen was immediately put on the spot.“One of the deans asked me, ‘How will your research impact the world?’” Allen recalled on a recent afternoon in his office near Fenway Park. “I put that line up in our lab and it’s still there. Our approach is to pursue research that we know will transform the market — and transform health.”As the head of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Allen is working to transform design and construction of indoor spaces by revealing how ventilation, temperature, lighting, and noise affect health. His team drove a key part of that research forward in 2015 with a series of papers that proved what countless office workers long suspected: Indoor air quality influences job performance. The CogFX studies, conducted in collaboration with Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical University, and supported by a gift to Harvard from United Technologies, showed a direct link between cognitive function and indoor environment.In the study’s first phase, 24 participants worked for six days in a simulated office while researchers regulated the room’s concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the chemicals released from things such as carpets and surface cleaners. They also set ventilation rates and carbon dioxide levels, re-creating the conditions of green and green+ certified buildings and conventional office space. Then they put subjects to the test.“We watched how they made plans and decisions and accessed information relative to what was happening to see if they could be strategic in their thinking and we found really dramatic effects even from minor changes to the indoor environment,” Allen said.,“One of the deans asked me, ‘How will your research impact the world?’ I put that line up in our lab and it’s still there. Our approach is to pursue research that we know will transform the market — and transform health.” — Joe Allen, pictured above “I think I’ve seen most everything that goes wrong in buildings,” said Allen. “Every chemical, biological, radiological, physical hazard you could think of. In the Healthy Buildings program we are exploring how we design and optimize buildings for health from the start.”The current phase of the CogFX study, funded with primary support from United Technologies, a Fortune 50 company with interests in building-control technologies, and additional support by JLL, a U.S. professional services and investment management company specializing in real estate, involves 10 buildings in China, with plans to include 100 building in countries around the world in the near future.The project involves an environmental monitor small enough to fit on a desk that tracks air quality and ventilation; a wrist monitor that tracks sleep and physical activity; and an iPhone app that feeds researchers real-time data.Taking his research global, said Allen, is key.“So much of what we know about basic health — from air pollution or how much exercise is good for us or what foods to eat — comes from great epidemiological cohort studies, many of which were done here at Harvard, such as the comprehensive Nurses’ Health Study and the famous Harvard Six Cities study. We don’t have a similar longitudinal cohort of buildings and people in buildings, so we are launching a global study looking at environmental factors, building factors, mechanical systems, lighting, green certifications, everything.”Another forward-looking aspect of Allen’s work owes a debt to the past.The research, backed by a Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund grant, builds on Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s work on “biophilia” — humankind’s inherent love and need of nature and the theme of Wilson’s 1984 book of the same name. A much-heralded study by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich, also released in 1984, supported the premise, demonstrating that hospital patients recovering from gallbladder surgery did so more quickly, had fewer complications, and required less pain medication if their rooms had windows looking out at a tree instead of a brick wall. Participants’ cognitive function was significantly affected in all nine areas tested, including focused-activity levels, information usage, and strategy. Crisis-response scores were 97 percent higher at the green office setting compared with that of conventional office space, and 131 percent higher at the green+ office setting.The results supported Allen’s idea that your physician may have less of a role in day-to-day well-being than the facilities manager where you work.“All of that has such a big impact on our health, but we just don’t recognize or appreciate it every day.”Most of us aren’t alarmed by the smell of fresh paint or a new carpet. But those odors, released in the form of VOCs, can be toxic. In his lab, Allen is probing the health effects of VOCs and other chemicals, including hormone-disrupting agents lurking in flame retardants commonly found in furniture, toys, and other household items. Last year he co-authored a paper with Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, exploring possible links between flame retardants and thyroid disease. The research, said Allen, showed “a higher risk of thyroid disease in women who have higher concentrations of this chemical in their blood, and an even greater risk for women who are postmenopausal.”Allen and his team are also researching possible links between a class of chemicals found in stain repellents and immune suppression, testicular and kidney cancer, and high cholesterol. Such compounds have been dubbed “Forever Chemicals” because they “never go away,” Allen wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece last month.Indoor air quality is an important focus of Allen’s work with the Healthier Buildings Materials Academy, an initiative developed by the Harvard Office for Sustainability (OFS) in collaboration with the Chan School that helps educate Harvard project managers and purchasers about a range of issues, including the problem of swapping out one banned chemical for an equally harmful substitute.The academy is translating “research into practice, creating a new model for how to define health in the built environment,” said Heather Henriksen, director of the Office for Sustainability. 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. Green buildings aid improved performance in workplace 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. Related 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. 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. 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.last_img read more

Douglas: Quebec a key partner in Vermont’s energy future

first_imgBy Governor Jim Douglas July 6, 2011. As Governor of Vermont, one of my first priorities was to strengthen and grow our state’s centuries-long partnership with the Canadian Province of Quebec.  I believed then as I do now that this relationship is critical to the success of our great state. Quebec is our largest trading partner and a significant source of clean, stable and, most importantly, renewable energy from Hydro-Quebec. Not only do we share an international border, but we share a deep cultural and historic connection; indeed many families have relatives on both sides.In December of 2003 I led the first of many delegations north to Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke. Quebec Premier Jean Charest and I quickly established a professional rapport and close friendship because we both know the importance of the bond our people share. Our Lake Champlain Quadricentennial in 2009 was a great example of how we celebrate our shared history and Franco-American heritage. In recent years Vermont and Quebec worked together on a host of important initiatives. We committed ourselves to improve the quality of Lakes Champlain and Memphremagog; we agreed, with other states and provinces in our region, to reduce emissions into the atmosphere; we entered into an agreement on reciprocity of child support; we instituted enhanced driver’s licenses for easier transit across the border; we conducted joint training drills in emergency preparedness; and we worked on enhancing our cross-border transportation options. One of the most important relationships we have with Quebec is around energy.  I am proud that our energy portfolio is the cleanest in the nation ‘ we emit less in greenhouse gases than any other state ‘and our retail electric rates are the lowest in New England.  This due in large part to the very favorable contracts we have negotiated with our energy partners at Hydro-Quebec. As we look to a new phase in our energy future, the acquisition of our largest utility, Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS), likely by one of two Canadian companies, it is my hope that the focus will remain on what is best for families and employers who struggle everyday to make ends meet. Vermonters are right to measure the outcome of the CVPS acquisition based almost entirely on what it will mean for their electric rates. Two ways to achieve lower rates are to ensure the availability of power and streamlining its delivery to consumers. While Vermont should continue to explore alternative sources of power, it is essential that we maintain a cost-effective supply of baseload electricity.  That means stable, affordable, renewable energy from a source of which we can be proud and a country we can trust. Our neighbors to the north are not an unstable regime far from home; they are a valued ally whose success is integrally tied to our own. A key cost of doing business ‘ especially in manufacturing and other energy-intensive sectors ‘ is electricity. If we’re going to create more good-paying jobs for the next generation of Vermonters, we need to moderate that cost.   We can be proud that all of our utilities, including our two largest, CVPS and Green Mountain Power, have such a great record of service to our people. This is due to the dedication of the countless hard-working Vermonters who make these companies run. But as I have often said, in order for us to realize savings in our small state, whether in education spending, healthcare costs or electric rates, we must seek efficiencies through economies of scale wherever possible. For this reason, as Governor, I supported consolidation of our utilities.  There are few, if any, more meaningful ways to reduce costs among regulated monopolies like utilities. Improving our relationship with Quebec is one of the great accomplishments of my tenure. It is encouraging to see the new administration carry on this important mission. There will be many energy challenges in the future as the demand for electricity grows and, in an increasingly unstable world, it is a great comfort to know that Vermont can look to Quebec as a valued partner and friend.last_img read more

These homes for high-flyers come with a helipad

first_img101 Commodore Drive, Paradise Waters, is the only home with the sanction to land a helicopter on the Gold Coast.As COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, many people will be returning to offices and the now quiet roads will once again be teeming with commuters. The lucky owners of 101 Commodore Drive, Paradise Waters, however, have the means to escape the M1 rat run. How? With their own private helicopter and floating helipad. The private helipad at 101 Commodore Drive, Paradise Waters.The waterfront home on the Gold Coast was a hotly anticipated property when it was being built several years ago. For years neighbours watched it evolve, rising from a block of vacant land, to become one of the most extravagant homes on the canal. The property attracted attention, not least for a 105mm Howitzer that sits on its balcony, protecting its river views from unsuspecting visitors, but also for its helipad, which made it the only riverfront home on the Gold Coast from which you can fly directly in and out of. The property, called Tulsa, named after the owner’s friend’s farm in Victoria, sits on 1129 sqm and has 30m of water frontage, six bathrooms, seven car spaces, a powered workshop, grand formal bar room. It also has a home theatre with a 140-inch screen plus an office and library. A nine-person lift services each of the floors of the three-storey mansion. The property is 30 minutes from Coolangatta Airport and an hour from Brisbane Airport (by car) and is a stroll to Main Beach and the village atmosphere of Tedder Ave.It is on the market for $12.75 million through Tolemy Stevens of Harcourts Coastal, Broadbeach. Feel like a Hollywood movie star when you fly in to this property at 652 London Rd, Chandler.House-hunters in Brisbane have the chance to snap up a property with its own helipad at 652 London Road, Chandler. The palatial private acreage estate in one of Brisbane’s most exclusive residential pockets is just 18 minutes to domestic and international airports. The 1.01ha Georgian-inspired property has looks that wouldn’t be out of place on a classic romantic film set. The stately 901sqm seven-bedroom, six-bathroom mansion, is filled with chandeliers and exquisite finishes, including marble staircases, Spanish Crema Marfil marble flooring and rendered concrete. There is a large lounge and formal dining space with wrought-iron banisters.Outside you can land your helicopter in the landscaped gardens, which follow a sweeping private driveway down to the road.The property is open for inspections through Joseph Lordi of McGrath ahead of its auction date, which is yet to be set.More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus9 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market9 hours ago 82 Santacatterina Road, Port Douglas, is at the foot of the Daintree and has its own helipad.If you want to escape isolation and fancy a trip further north, you could land your helicopter at 82 Santacatterina Road, Port Douglas. The estate at the base of the surrounding Daintree sits in five acres of natural rainforest with a creek, a helipad and driveways for landing helicopters, stables, and a tennis court. Inside, the main house is just as grand. As you enter you are met by an internal waterfall and floor to ceiling louvred glass windows overlooking the pool and gardens.Four master bedrooms in the main residence all have ensuites, with a further two bedrooms and bathrooms in a separate area making up the sleeping quarters.The property is on the market for $3.45 million through Barbara Wolveridge of Sotheby’s Queensland..last_img read more