India’s Paharpur Business Centre offers a refreshing new flavour to the health and wellbeing industry. It’s an internationally relevant example of healthy, resource efficient design that is operating in an existing building and certified with a methodology developed for the local culture.
The green building industry has demonstrated in recent years that there is a business case for buildings that benefit people and planet. We’ve seen cutting-edge examples of healthy, green new builds with shiny exteriors, productive occupants and persuasive paybacks. However, it is truly stimulating for our industry to investigate the success of a building that has incorporated the core principles of green, healthy buildings in a unit that has been operational for decades. We need examples to show the how-to of healthy retrofit of our existing building stock, and the Paharpur Business Centre offers a promising insight into this area of increasing industry importance.
Health and Wellbeing in India – The Whole Body and Mind Approach
The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) released a pilot version of their ‘Health & Well-being Rating for Occupants’ certification, in conjunction with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in 2017.
The certification scheme covers the traditional core concepts of health and wellbeing including: indoor air and water quality, occupant comfort and consideration of fitness and nutrition.
However, one of the unique elements of the new certification is their culturally grounded perspective on wellbeing. The methodology of the certification explains the relationship between the five elements of physical wellbeing and consciousness in the built environment. Traditional Indian medicine and healing emphasises a holistic, ‘whole body and mind’ view of health, and places strong emphasis on the link between mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
To create a model that reflects the holistic Indian culture of health, the three core areas of wellbeing are defined in the certification as physical, emotional and intellectual and social wellbeing. This shows a clear disparity from western medicine, which has historically emphasised physical health over mental and emotional; demonstrating that western health and wellbeing strategies may require cultural adjustment to ensure global relevance.
Case Study: Paharpur Business Centre
The Paharpur Business Centre (PBC) is a 30 year old commercial building, located in Delhi, India. The building houses 250 employees working in small and medium enterprises. The slogan of the centre emphasises the core values of productivity and occupant health: ‘Breathe Fresh, Work Smart’. However, the environmental credentials of this building are not to be overlooked. PBC is a certified green building and is consistently reporting impressive energy efficiency figures in operation.
The PBC is India’s first project to be awarded a Platinum Level certification from IGBC’s Health and Wellbeing rating tool – so what strategies have been implemented to achieve this?
Healthy, Sustainable Strategies
The PBC implemented sustainable design and operation features to improve the working environment. Flagship features within the building include:
- Fresh air: over 5,000 indoor plants purify the air, boosted by electrostatic, carbon and HEPA filters to remove particles and allergens. Indoor air quality is monitored and displayed to building occupants.
- Clean water: the quality of drinking and treated water is tested quarterly to minimise the risk of water-borne diseases.
- Comfort feedback loop: strategies to improve physical comfort parameters (visual, thermal, acoustic, olfactory and ergonomic) based on occupant survey feedback have been implemented, both improving the environment and ensuring staff feel valued.
- Indoor cleanliness: housekeeping procedures are in place to maintain cleanliness and control outdoor dust pollutants. Environmentally-friendly chemicals are used to reduce any adverse impact on respiratory systems.
- Healthy lifestyle incentives: food and nutrition labelling encourages the consumption of healthy food. The building also provides fitness facilities for occupants.
Building the business case
To date, the PBC is calculating the economic benefit of their healthy, green building by using the metrics of reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.
However, third party occupant satisfaction surveys have indicated that 95% of occupants are satisfied with the environment provided at PBC. Although the business case is yet to be quantified, it can be expected that such high levels of staff satisfaction will almost certainly be reflected in reduced staff turnover. Therefore, recruitment and training costs will be lower and will hopefully also correlate with improved staff productivity and business output. Furthermore, documented high levels of energy efficiency should also be reflected in utility overheads, demonstrating the complimentary business case for green and healthy sustainable buildings.
Here at WorldGBC, we commend the Indian GBC for using their new health and wellbeing certification to demonstrate that healthy, green strategies are not just for new builds. It’s a lesson learnt for us all: you don’t need to wait for your retrofit schedule or your new office move to build healthy, green strategies into a space. The development of IGBC and CII’s certification also proves that human sustainability strategies are most powerful when they are culturally relevant. Additionally, best practice guidance and research should be adapted to be regionally and societally ingrained.
We would like to thank IGBC for sharing details of their most recent healthy, green case study and look forward to presenting more information on the business impacts once available.
Catriona Brady is Project Manager for WorldGBC’s Better Places for People project. This blog was adapted from information from Anand M. & Dr Jain, P C. 2018. ‘The Green Building Movement in India’ Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Journal (March 2018) pp. 94-98, with permission from the Indian Green Building Council. To learn more about the PBC case study, click here.