LEED can help improve human health in China

Joe Crea

China is seeing incredible growth and industrialization. With that industrialization and the rise of manufacturing, though, comes an impact on the environment and on air quality. The Chinese government has dramatically increased efforts to address the nation’s air quality, but there is still more to be done, especially in the country’s large urban population centers. According to the New York Times, global climate change is further impacting China’s air quality. Changing weather patterns, linked to rising temperatures, are no longer effectively pushing contaminated air out of China’s densely packed cities. 

However, meaningful actions can be taken. One enormous area of opportunity involves the built environment and the structures where we live, learn, work and play.

Millions of people from China’s countryside are migrating to the cities. This dramatic population shift is creating great demand for new buildings, and the government of China is working to meet this demand not simply through cutting-edge building designs, but also through sustainable construction techniques and building operations. 

Green buildings reduce energy, water and resource waste,  create a healthier indoor environment and save money on reduced utility bills. They also have been reported to have a higher resale value and to spend less time on the market.

USGBC's LEED rating system is a globally recognized framework for sustainable building design, operations and maintenance. For nearly 20 years, LEED, which was developed and is maintained through members of the international building community, has helped builders on all types of projects, and under all climatic and geographic conditions to design, construct and operate more efficient, less wasteful buildings. These buildings also contribute to the improved health and well-being of their occupants.

With LEED, builders gain a much broader working perspective than with more restrictive green building platforms, which tend to limit considerations to energy, water, waste and site management. Although LEED guidelines effectively address those core green building concerns, they also address human health considerations such as occupant comfort, worker productivity and a building’s overall connection to nature.

Within these important human health areas, builders are free to place greater emphasis on attributes such as on-site green space, natural daylighting, enhanced air filtration, improved ventilation, greater use of interior landscaping and ample views of the outdoors. Each of these areas benefits both the physical and mental human health of occupants. 

LEED also encourages biophilic design principles, which promote instinctive links between humans and other forms of life and have been shown to positively impact building occupants by mitigating stress, increasing happiness, reducing fatigue and improving productivity.

This year, China became the world’s largest market for LEED outside the U.S. More recently, the country also celebrated reaching 1,000 LEED-certified buildings. These represent incredible milestones in regards to China’s commitment to seeking sustainable building solutions for all of its citizens. We are proud to partner with the builders, the building owners, the architects, the engineers, the government, the people of China and everyone else who is working toward a more sustainable future. It represents a great hope for us all.

USGBC has released a one-page primer that reviews some of the LEED credits that have direct impact on human health. USGBC is committed to working with China to solve issues related to urbanization, building, development and human health. Steadfast in our support, we look forward to continuing conversations about how LEED can help China build a healthier, stronger future for all of its citizens.

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