In our latest edition of Building Sight, we look at the increasing focus on wellbeing from an industry perspective such as how it could impact on the built environments we create, how technology is improving occupational health and the risk of psychological injury due to stress.
IN THIS EDITION:
SMART CITY, HEALTHY CITY
Smart cities could mean better and healthier lives in emerging economies — both for inhabitants and the workers who build them. Over the last decade, our understanding of what makes a “smart city” has shifted. The application of smart city ideas in emerging economies offers huge opportunities to improve the lives of people living and working in those cities.
Beyond the basic needs of housing, social infrastructure, and utilities, smart cities could bring easier access to sanitation, transportation, public services, and information. They also lead to reduced crime levels, cleaner air, and the opportunity to live healthier lifestyles.
SPOTLIGHT ON OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH
Awareness of asbestos-related risks is growing in many countries, but regulation alone may not be enough to tackle the problem. For a material known to cause fatal illness, international trade in asbestos is surprisingly brisk. The International Labour Organization estimates that 100,000 people die annually from a disease relating to workplace exposure to the naturally occurring fibrous mineral — yet, it is still a popular building material.
ULTRA VIOLET RADIATION
Exposure to ultra violet (UV) radiation at work is causing skin cancer. And claims are on the increase. Skin cancer caused by UV radiation is the fastest-growing occupational malignancy, according to occupational skin disease specialist Professor Swen Malte John from the University of Osnabrück.
ASSESSING THE RISK OF NANOPARTICLES
The world of nanoparticles carries potential for huge advances in the strength and performance of construction materials. Nanoparticles will transform construction — but we need more research on their potential health risks.
THINKING AHEAD ON MENTAL HEALTH
The prevalence and impact of poor mental health in construction has fortunately seen greater industry discourse in recent years. However, a lot more can still be done to address the problem and avoid the tragic consequences of high stress levels, which can include loss of life.
Progressive companies are looking for buildings that improve their employees’ health and well-being. Progressive contractors are looking to build them. A 2018 report by the World Green Building Council looked at 11 office buildings around the world to assess whether green features aimed at delivering health and well-being benefits actually worked. The report found that occupants had fewer days off and felt happier and more productive.
REDUCING RISKS THROUGH DIGITAL
The drive toward digitalization and automation isn’t just about increasing productivity. It’s also about attracting the next, tech-savvy generation to the industry by making construction sites better places to work. Already, new technologies are demonstrating the benefits that digital construction could bring to the workforce, whether through the use of robotics, wearable tech, virtual reality (VR), or 3D design.
DIVERSITY AND WELL-BEING
Construction companies are waking up to the fact that more diverse teams lead to better results. In some cases, clients are demanding diversity. For instance, in the US, federal agencies are targeted to award 5% of their prime contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. For others, diversity is just good business sense. Research from McKinsey in 2017 found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. In this article three women draw on their industry experiences.