Tag Archives: Arup

New focus on health and ‘WELL Being’ in building design

Mona Holtkoetter, Arup

Most people can correlate to scenarios where buildings or surroundings have a negative impact on our health. Why are you feeling more stressed after sitting in a meeting room with bad  acoustics for several hours? Have you experienced the post-lunch coma and tried to fight against it with a large amount of coffee in the afternoon? Have you left the full-day conference in a room without access to daylight and then been blinded by the sun when leaving the building? Have you experienced back pain from sitting at your desk all day?

Then there are the not so obvious effects of the indoor environment to your health? What is the indoor air quality that we breath for 90% of the day? What is the drinking water quality from the kitchen tap? A large amount of research has been published to analyse these questions. This research has been transformed into a new building certification system, the WELL Building Standard, bringing the key items together.

So, what does the WELL Building Standard include and how can we, as professionals in the built environment, play a key role in enhancing the health and wellbeing of occupants? How can we contribute to tackle main lifestyle-related  health epidemics, such as stress, obesity and muscular-skeletal complaints?

The WELL Standard separates the opportunities to promote health and well being in buildings into the following categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Air                                                                                                                                                                                  We breath more than 15,000 litres of air each day but outdoor air quality is deteriorating globally due to pollution from traffic, construction, agricultural activity, combustion and particulate matter. When considering the outdoor air quality, filtration of outdoor air by air handling units becomes a critical component for the HVAC design of a building services engineer. But which of the components mentioned above is captured by the F7 filter that we usually specify? Is this sufficient or do we need to re-think?

Further important aspects of indoor air  quality are ventilation levels, selection of combustion equipment, management of pesticides, cleaning practices to remove microbial pathogens and exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can evoke asthma, allergies and can impact on productivity.

Water                                                                                                                                                                            While the objective when considering water at design stage focuses on accessibility to drinking water to promote hydration, the main emphasis should be the water quality. As building services engineers we are responsible for planning the water installation, but testing the water quality is typically not within our scope. We are purely relying on the water supplied by the city council to be the correct quality. While the Irish drinking water is tested for compliance with the EPA standards, not all contaminants dangerous for the human body are covered by these tests.

Also, any impacts on drinking water quality through pipework distribution is typically ignored. WELL requires a broad assessment of the water delivered at the site and requires the installation of adequate filtration if needed.

Nourishment                                                                                                                                                                To avoid the post-lunch food coma and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, access to healthy and balanced food within a building or its surroundings is key. A healthy food offer goes hand in hand with healthy food advertising and information about ingredients, and can be advanced through the provision of gardening space. Imagine you are working late and instead of going down to the vending machine to buy a chocolate bar, you are going onto the balcony to pick an apple from the tree?

Light                                                                                                                                                                              The lighting codes we currently design to provide recommendations on illuminance levels to ensure sufficient light is provided for the task, to avoid eyestrains, to maintain productivity and to reduce headache. But light also influences our internal body clock that synchronises physiological function. Lighting exposure plays a key role for our sleep patterns and sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Do we need to go beyond code compliance to ensure our lighting design is providing a healthy environment?

Fitness                                                                                                                                                                Inactivity is now one of the biggest threats to public health, directly attributable to 9.4% of all deaths worldwide. While we as building services engineers have limited influence to the design for fitness, there are great opportunities to promote fitness within the built environment. This can go from the promotion of staircases, to the provision of bicycle parking, shower and changing facilities, gym or other internal or external fitness opportunities. Or, better still, how about combining fitness and work? Great innovations, such as sit-standing desks, treadmill desks or bicycle desks are already available on the market.

Comfort                                                                                                                                                                        Open-plan is the office layout of choice for most companies in Ireland. While it is great for collaboration with colleagues, the provision of quite areas to concentrate or make a phone call is important. As building services engineers, the selection of HVAC equipment has a great influence on the acoustics. Next to acoustic comfort, thermal comfort is important. While I typically sit at my desk with my jumper on, drinking a tea, my colleague next to me sits in a t-shirt and asks if we could open the windows as he feels too warm.

We are a key example for different temperature preferences. Why not be innovative with our HVAC design and provide different temperature gradients within a building?

Mind                                                                                                                                                                              Our minds and bodies are inextricably connected and play a vital role in our health and wellbeing. Buildings can provide spaces, such as balconies or green areas to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Workplace policies can have a positive impact on mood, sleep and stress levels, and can positively benefit our overall health and wellbeing. The reaction to indoor plants provided in the first WELL-certified office building in the UK was employees fighting about the plant positioning – they all wanted the plants to be located close to their desks. Maybe planting is not the best strategy for stress reduction after all!

Industry Supports Laura Lynn Hospice

news-lauralynn-storyAs part of the Arup in the community initiative, Arup recently undertook professional design and construction services for a new parent’s room extension at the Laura Lynn Childrens’ Hospice in Dublin on a voluntary basis.

This has now been completed and further works are currently underway to upgrade the ventilation system in the nurses’ office and guest bedrooms.

Lindab and Vent Axia Ireland are generously donating two new heat recovery units, ducting and ancillaries to upgrade the systems, while Treysta Building Services are carrying out the installation of the units, again all on a voluntary basis.

Pictured at the Laura Lynn Childrens’ Hospice site meeting in Dublin recently were Barry Murphy, Vent Axia with Damien Flynn, Arup; Trevor Hammond, LauraLynn; Des O’Brien, Lindab, and Kevin Kelly, Treysta Building Services

NSAI accreditation for Arup & Homan O’Brien

Minister of State for Small Business, John Perry TD with Gerard Keating, Director, Homan O’Brien Associates and Maurice Buckley, NSAI CEO.

Three of Ireland’s leading engineering companies were awarded certified standards at a recent National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) certification event. Arup and Homan O’Brien Associates received the Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, while PQE Technology was certified in Quality Management Systems.

Minister of State for Small Business, John Perry TD, joined Maurice Buckley, NSAI CEO, to present the awards and to recognise the importance of standards in today’s competitive climate. “Standards are vital in the current economic climate, particularly for SMEs,” the Minister said.

“Implementing standards in business can help to focus the resources spent on research and development, and to effectively allocate resources in the toughest of times and improve their ability to innovate”, he concluded.

Contact: www.nsai.ie

A Postcard From Abroad — John Burgess

John Burgess in London

I started work in the recently refurbished GE Capital Real Estate office in Hammersmith as an Energy Management Advisor. I think the team from Minneapolis had been retired some years earlier.

My work involves dealing with a large real estate investment and management team across Europe, helping to continue the rollout of key sustainability and energy-efficiency initiatives, and to improve building performance for the occupants.

It is perhaps a little ironic that the office where I am based is called “The Ark”, a landmark building in Hammersmith, providing shelter from the economic storm raging at home. This new role provided me an excellent opportunity to continue doing what I love most about my work – to make our indoor environment a better place to live in a more efficient way.

One of the most striking things about London is the contrast between the bright city lights and the open parklands. My bicycle commute through Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and the banks of the Thames was certainly a very pleasant way of seeing the quiet side of London. The Ark has excellent gymnasium, showers and locker facilities for the more active commuters and so I set myself an arduous training regime!

However, the audition at the Apollo in Hammersmith for Britain’s Got Talent was unsuccessful as Simon Cowell felt he could not teach an old dog any new tricks. Besides, Pudsey had much more potential. So I stuck with what I knew best and continued on with what was really a very exciting year.

My work took me to buildings all across Europe – Stockholm, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Gothenburg and Dusseldorf. While the usual restrictions on time for sightseeing applied, it is very interesting to see the different ways HVAC technologies are applied in the different countries.

Other highlights during the year included watching the botched up Boat Race from Craven Cottage. I was sure the impostor who swam between the two crews was the mad Irish priest, but thankfully he wasn’t, he was a crackpot of local origins!

There were the celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee for which the whole country entered into party mode. Then there was the most exciting Wimbledon in years with Andy Murray making the final and a win for the locals in the men’s doubles. This was followed by Bradley Wiggins’s win in the TdF and you know the rest as regards the outstanding Olympic Games. I had to share some golden moments with another nation of Green and Gold following the Jamaicans’ victories in the sprinting events.

Thank goodness Katie Taylor won gold, but what followed in the Paralympic Games was absolutely spell-binding and, for me, the best moments of the year. The Londoners packed the venues to watch the true grit and determination of athletes who have higher hurdles to jump than the rest of us. It was both emotional and motivating. The Irish athletes and their supporters did us very, very proud.

Looking forward to next year, I can’t let the opportunity go by without flagging two activities of note in the Geothermal Association of Ireland, a conference in Kilkenny in November and a competition for non-domestic installations. More details to follow shortly.

I wish everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas and may your endeavours bring you fulfilment in 2013. ■

Postcard From Abroad — Alan Duggan in Toronto

Toronto Islands Ferry

View from Alan's office in Toronto

We arrived late at night into the city lights but not even the illuminated CN Tower could keep our youngest Roisin awake as we glided into a hotel in downtown Toronto which was to be our home for the next three weeks.

Over the next few days we touched base with the Arup office, visited some prospective rental houses, obtained our Social Insurance Numbers, applied for our OHIP health cards and set up bank accounts. Work over, we visited the CN tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the Americas at 553m. This generated many “oohs and aahs”, particularly when walking over the glass floor 400m up in the air.

As luck would have it, our first weekend in Toronto coincided with the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The weather was unseasonably warm and we were able to enjoy an impressive parade before heading to the Toronto Islands. The islands are a tranquil and beautiful oasis to look back at the wonderful skyline of Toronto. However, the kids were disappointed to find that nothing on the island opens until May.

I started work in Arup Toronto on 12 March while the family enjoyed a three-week holiday visiting most of the sights that Toronto has to offer. We moved into our house at the end of March and the following Monday school Canadian-style started for the kids. Much gnashing of teeth from our eldest who is now obliged to learn French for the first time. Tadhg our middle child moans about having to get out of bed early after a month off, while our youngest Roisin reveled in sauntering into kindergarten at 12.30pm and finishing at 3.10pm. Little do they know I’m arranging Irish lessons from September onwards!

Outside school Rory is enjoying soccer, and was recently invited up to join the select team! Tadgh has really gotten into baseball and Roisin is enjoying skating lessons. Mom and pop now spend seven evenings a week driving them to the various venues.

Work is busy taking charge and showing leadership to a new, young and energetic team of 22 people. We are busy on a number of projects, including two new subway stations under construction; scheme and design development for a further two subway stations; bid support for three stadia (Hamilton football stadium, York athletic stadium and Milton velodrome) which are to be built for the Pan-Am games in 2015; detailed design for an under-lake pedestrian tunnel out to the Toronto Islands airport; and an office fit-out.

Generally mechanical work is not too dissimilar to what we do in Ireland, but the electrical codes do
seem to be from a distant planet. I’m also getting my head around the fire codes that at times seem counter-intuitive. Everything here is sprinklered, including swimming pools and ice rinks, and as a consequence smoke detectors are generally not required!

Arup have been in the Americas for the last 25 years and in Toronto since 2000. Our building engineering offering is less than two years old and marketing is obviously a big part of my job.

There are definitely more opportunities here than at home (not hard says you) with cranes dotted all over the skyline. However, breaking into the market is tough, particularly for public work. Infrastructure Ontario control a huge amount of public work projects and add layer upon layer of bureaucracy to the entire process, all in the interest of “fairness”. One word of caution in the GTA is that while there are 180 high rise projects on site or due to hit site in the next 12 months, the vast majority of these are residential condos. Sound familiar?

The real boom in Canada is out in Alberta and is in support of the oil sands industry there. Canadian contractors and consultants are recruiting in Ireland to assist with working on these projects. Be aware that the housing and social infrastructure to assist this boom is  lagging behind – this means plenty of construction jobs, but accommodation can be very expensive, if it is available at all. Also, the oil extraction locations are pretty remote and will be hot hot hot in summer and icy-cold in winter.

The weather so far in Toronto by the way has been fantastic and it really helps with the outdoor lifestyle here. Let’s see what winter brings.

Below I’ve added a few watch-its if you are considering a move to Toronto or to Canada.

Immigration
Make sure you have a job offer and all your paperwork in place before you arrive. Immigration is tight and will have no hesitation in sending you home on the next available flight if you arrive without it.

Engineer
The title of Engineer is highly regulated in Canada and it is illegal to call oneself an engineer unless you have obtained the title Professional Engineer (P. Eng.) which is equivalent to Chartered Engineer status. While Engineers Canada were signatories to the Washington Accord, it is the individual provinces who are responsible for the control of professional titles.

There is a minimum 12-month training period and exams to be taken before one is conferred with a P. Eng. A further difficulty is that the term Building Services Engineer is unknown in Canada and degrees from abroad bearing that title are not recognised, at least not in Ontario, meaning that up to 12 3-hour written exams must be taken, along with the associated study time. We think we may have found an easier route through British Columbia but it will be a few months before we know the outcome of same. Those with a straight mechanical or electrical engineering degree should have a more straightforward path to obtaining P. Eng.

Cost of Living
Toronto is at least 15% more expensive than Dublin. Groceries are generally less expensive, but dairy is expensive. Eating out is generally cheaper than home but beer and wine is much more expensive, particularly downtown.

Housing
There is a reasonable supply of housing available in the GTA but it can be expensive. The closer you get to downtown it is likely to be an apartment in one of the new condominium towers. Those thinking of buying should be aware that mortgages are tightly regulated. The max loan to value allowable is 80% and max term is 25 years. House prices have been increasing 8% to 10% annually over the last decade and there are some concerns regarding a housing market bubble.

Transportation
Toronto has a pretty good integrated public transportation infrastructure. There are two main subway lines running north/south and east/west, (soon to be extended). The bus service links well with the subway and trolley buses, while novel, tend to be slow. The wider GTA area is served by the Go suburban rail system. Cars and petrol at $1.25 a litre are cheaper than home, but car insurance is horrendously expensive in Ontario and in the GTA in particular. That 10 years no claims bonus you carefully minded in Ireland cuts no ice with the insurance companies here, but will at least allow you to get a quotation. Expect to pay at least $3000 for a standard family car.

Also, while holders of British driving licences can swap theirs for a Canadian equivalent, Irish licence holders must sit both a theory and drivers test.

Credit
New immigrants to Canada will find it hard to obtain credit. Obtaining a Canadian credit card is not easy and expect to receive a very low limit initially.