The benefits of living and working in green buildings run further than feeling good about their low environmental impacts. Many features encouraged by rating systems such as LEED, which promotes daylighting, access to views, and natural, non-toxic building materials, have proven to have a definite positive effect on health and well-being.
Proximity to Nature and Life Expectancy
Even if there is nothing “green” or sustainable about your home’s construction, you can get a significant health boost just by being close to a park or green space. Japanese researchers found that living in a highly forested region can provide a protective effect against various types of cancer, including lung, breast, and colon. The correlation existed even when they controlled for smoking and wealth among participants.
Similar findings on the effect of green space were found in the U.S. at the University of West Florida and in Scotland at the University of Glasgow .
Natural Building Materials Decrease Stress
Natural building materials can make you feel more relaxed. Researchers found that for optimal relaxation effect, between 30 and 40 percent of the interior surface area should be covered by wood. Physiological stress markers were lowest in this range .
A Scenic View Improves Healing
Two groups of 23 hospital patients receiving gallbladder surgery were matched for all factors other than the type of view out their window; one group saw a brick wall, while the other group saw a natural scene of deciduous trees. The group that viewed the natural scene had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer potent pain killers, and received much optimistic assessments by the nursing staff .
Improve Mental Performance with Better Air Quality
A European study of 800 students showed that high carbon dioxide levels (indicative of poor ventilation) were statistically correlated with lower scores on a concentration test and a higher incidence of health complaints .
A study of adults in an office setting showed they performed slightly better in all tested categories of typing, arithmetic, logical reasoning, memory, and creative thinking when air quality was improved through increased ventilation .
Avoid Mold, Breathe Better
A well designed building will have fewer problems with excess moisture and mold. A Canadian study on nearly 15,000 adults found that the presence of mold in homes increased the number of respiratory complaints in both smokers and nonsmokers . Another study concluded that mold exposure in homes worsened the symptoms of Asthma .
A Quieter Home for Calmer Nerves
Loud neighbors or surroundings can be annoying, but there are also physical health consequences. Noise increases stress levels, which can lead to hypertension and even heart disease. The World Health Organization published a report estimating that each year, noise pollution is responsible for the collective loss of 1.6 million years of healthy living among the European population . The good news is that many green building features can help block out noise, such as using high performance windows, incorporating thermal mass into walls, and weatherstripping door and window frames.
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