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Measuring the well-being benefits of interior material selections

Impact of materials on well-being in refurbishment

The majority of us spend most of our working and leisure time in buildings but we do not give much thought to the way they might be affecting our health and well-being.  The buildings we occupy can have both direct (e.g. physical illness caused by Volatile Organic Compounds) or indirect impacts (e.g. the effect of day lighting levels on mood and performance) on our well-being.

BRE (The Building Research Establishment) is carrying out a research project looking at people's views of interior materials and the impact of those materials on their well-being (psychological and physical).  We are focusing on refurbishment projects, as they have far more restrictions and usually lower budgets than new build projects, and hence urgently need support tools.

Environmental and economic impacts of the built environment have been well researched and considered for some time now, but to date there has been far less focus on the impact on occupants' and end users' well-being.  This is partly because there is no ‘quick win' solution available in the market and partly because of the character of the issue (i.e. multifaceted area). Our project will deliver useful guidelines and a supportive tool that address occupant well-being in refurbishment.

One of the objectives of the research is to create a database of materials used in interior fit out and their well-being properties that can be used to inform the design of new build and refurbishment projects. We are investigating options for offices, schools and hospitals as well as preparing a project focusing on housing (communal areas). We have undertaken a literature review, organised several workshops and have carried out an on-line survey for occupants and construction practitioners to share their views and inform further research in this area.

Our survey confirmed that the typical office is an uninspiring, dull and ‘basic' place. The findings so far demonstrate that the choice of interior materials in working environments is important and can have a variety of impacts on the psychological and physical well-being of users.

If you are interested in

  • Shaping a large programme of work on the well-being benefits of interior material selections for offices, schools and hospitals
  • Piloting an early version of our tool and sharing the results
  • Participating in the upcoming housing project (social housing or private housing) on this topic

Then contact: Katie Livesey (liveseyk@bre.co.uk, tel. 01923 664127)