Better buildings

Making “inside” a great place to be again, with some new ISO standards.

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With the current pandemic pointing the finger at enclosed public areas, the built environment has never had so much flack. Yet we can’t live without them, so ensuring buildings are safe, accessible, environmentally friendly and just nice places to be is the best we can do. It is also the objective of a large number of ISO standards, with some recent additions. Here is a selection:

Safe and secure

Protecting against nasty intruders while ensuring the building is both functional and pleasant to be in is the aim of the freshly published ISO 23234, Buildings and civil engineering works – Security – Planning of security measures in the built environment. The new standard describes which methods and routines need to be implemented in various stages of a building or civil engineering works project, as well as the competencies needed to achieve a good result.

Breathing easy

The quality of the air circulating in a built environment can be compromised by many factors, such as harmful gases, particles, odours, micro-organisms and emissions from building products and furnishings. The quality of ventilation and filtration systems, as well as the design and layout, can therefore play a significant role.

ISO has a technical committee dedicated to developing standards for air quality, such as those for sampling and test methods, internationally agreed definitions and more. These include ISO 7708, Air quality  – Particle size fraction definitions for health-related sampling, ISO 13138, Air quality – Sampling conventions for airborne particle deposition in the human respiratory system, and the ISO 16000 series of standards for indoor air, which also includes quality management systems.

Clean and green

Buildings account for up to 40 % of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning they present a valuable opportunity to bring emissions down. The ISO 52000 series of standards helps organizations contribute to the zero-carbon goal by allowing them to assess the energy performance of buildings in a holistic way. The series includes standards for calculating energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, ventilation and domestic hot water of buildings.

This series is complemented by the newly published ISO 52127, Energy performance of buildings – Building management system (parts 1 and 2), which provides a common methodology to set and maintain the energy performance of buildings (EPB). ISO 52127 is part of a larger family of International Standards aimed at harmonizing the methodology for assessing the energy performance of buildings, called the “EPB set of standards”.

Accessible to all

According to the World Health Organization, over a billion people in the world are affected by accessibility issues, so a built environment that takes this into account also fulfils a basic human right and improves the quality of living for everyone.

Standards like ISO 21542, Building construction – Accessibility and usability of the built environment, can help as they specify a range of requirements and recommendations for many of the elements of construction that relate to building access, including accessibility management. It is currently under revision to ensure it continues to meet market needs, with the updated version due to be published in the coming months.

Our own homes are also important when it comes to accessibility. Currently in development, ISO 15928-7, Houses – Description of performance – Part 7: Accessibility and usability, sets out a method for describing the performance of houses that includes the description of relevant parameters for accessibility and usability. It also contains features to ensure safety during daily use, such as preventing trips, falls or collisions. ISO 15928-7 is intended for use in the evaluation of the design and construction of houses, in the international trading of houses or their sub-systems, and in developing risk management tools for the protection of houses.

Concret ramp way with stainless steel handrail with disabled sign for support wheelchair disabled people.

Keeping strong

It’s all very well having secure, sustainable, accessible buildings with good ventilation, but how robust are they to weather the storms of society and the environment?

Technical report ISO/TR 22845, Resilience of buildings and civil engineering works, is a good place to start because it provides an index of typical existing information on concept, disaster risk and countermeasures for the resilience of buildings and civil engineering works.

More specific standards also provide guidance on strengthening buildings and reducing risks of all kinds. For example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, work is underway to produce ISO/TR 5202, Buildings and civil engineering works – Building resilience strategies related to public health emergencies – Compilation of relevant information.

The upcoming technical report will feature building-related information collected from multiple public health emergencies around the world, including that from typical cases, emergency measures and guidelines, and reflections and research on how to improve the role of buildings and their facilities in a public health emergency. All these standards and many more contribute directly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on good health and well-being (SDG 3), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and climate action (SDG 13). They can all be purchased from your national ISO member or the ISO Store.

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