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Building operators are essential for maintaining excellent safety and health standards in buildings. There were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019, unchanged from 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. By taking the time to set and measure goals for high-performance buildings, promote clean indoor air quality, and educate building occupants with the use of video, you’ll be able to maintain buildings supportive of health and wellness.

Set clear goals and track them
Operations and maintenance programs all too often skip one key foundational step: goal setting. By establishing clear goals, you can generate and monitor metrics. In turn, you’ll know how to act to achieve the results you want. For example, your goals may relate to energy efficiency, water efficiency, building conditions, system operations, waste stream management, indoor environmental standards, and facility services. Be sure to track your goals: monitor current performance to assess whether you’re on or off track, and make any adjustments and improvements to your methods where necessary. This is essential for identifying problems early on, making progress in the right direction, and achieving overall high performance.

Maintain clean indoor air quality
Indoor air quality should be a concern for all building operators. Americans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors, where concentrations of some harmful pollutants are often two to five times higher than concentrations typically found outdoors. Moreover, Legionnaire’s disease is a serious air quality concern: it’s an aerosolized mist present in roughly over 50% of commercial building utility, domestic and water systems. Legionnaires’ disease is similar to pneumonia, and can be fatal. Regular testing for harmful contaminants is therefore essential. To ensure healthy indoor air quality, you should also check existing ventilation rates and filtration policies: both of these should adhere to ASHRAE standards. The HVAC system (including ductwork and air handling parts) should also be evaluated for adequate hygiene. Dirt, mold and debris are prone to building up in HVAC systems, and promote unhealthy indoor air quality.

Educate building occupants
Take the time to educate building occupants on the link between buildings and health and wellness. For example, using video is an effective way to engage and inform viewers. In particular, it’s important to make sure your videos are accessible to all viewers, including those with disabilities. As many as 56.7 million Americans have some type of disability, with 8.1 million of those diagnosed with a vision impairment, which means they may need to use a screen reader or screen magnifier to view video content. Making accessible videos ensures you reach the biggest audience possible and all building occupants can receive the information. For example some buildings (most notably, Harvest Properties 555 12th Street in Oakland, California) celebrate regular Earth Day events, with the goal of encouraging occupants to use and maximize a building’s green features. Building owners and occupants are educated on the key role buildings play in health and wellbeing, and provide the information they need to operate and maintain the building safely and optimally. In particular, building owners and occupants alike can be taught how to control the lighting, air quality, and noise levels to promote optimal comfort and health.  

Maintaining a safe and healthy building is a prime responsibility for building operators. By taking the time to set and measure goals that achieve high-performance buildings, maintain clean indoor air quality, and using video to educate building occupants about the link between buildings and wellbeing, you’ll be in a better position to maintain safe and healthy buildings.

This article was authored and contributed by Jackie Edwards. Now working as a writer, Jackie Edwards started her career in Environmental Health in the Public Sector, but after becoming a mom refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she’s not writing, she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities and also has a strong interest in ecology, wildlife and conservation.

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