What Makes an Office Building “Healthy”?

by Joseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber


In a typical year you will take two million breaths in your office.


This, however, is not a typical year.


The pandemic spawned by the novel coronavirus has forced a global reckoning with the awesome power of infectious diseases to grind economies to a halt. The forced lockdowns and retreat into home isolation has also given us a heightened awareness of the role our surroundings play in our health and wellbeing.


While no one could have predicted the exact nature of the outbreak that is now upending our lives, many of us working in public health have been urgently advocating for organizations to invest in healthier buildings for some time. History tells us that buildings play a central role in the spread of disease. From measles to SARS to influenza and the common cold, the scientific literature is full of examples. But, as much as buildings can spread disease, if operated smartly, they can also help us fight against it. Amidst the chaos, one thing is clear: We will all go back to work with new expectations about the buildings where we live, learn, work, and play.


Buildings that Fight Disease and Promote Health

For our book, Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, the two of us have spent the last three years speaking to executives across the business spectrum who oversee real-estate portfolios that cover several billion square feet and contain millions of employees. We aimed to better understand how to drive healthy building science into practice.


Locked in a global battle for talent, the business leaders we spoke with were eager to find new ways to attract, retain, and enhance the performance of their employees. Few of them realized that their buildings could play a vital role in the health of their business. In response to Covid-19, that’s rapidly changing. CEOs from companies large and small have come out of the woodwork to engage with us on how to design, operate, and manage better buildings. Calls are also coming in from groups that run medical offices and dental clinics, hotels, schools, airports, and theaters, as well as mid-size law firms and small businesses in both small towns and major metropolitan areas.


The question on the mind of every business and organizational leader is this: When the time comes, how do I re-populate my buildings and restart my business?


Click here to read this article in its entirety on HBR.com.


Click here for more information on Hygieneering's Pre-Occupancy Building Wellness Program.

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