Green Mark Certification, LEEDS and Indoor Air Quality

Date: 08 October 2020

Most people spend over two thirds of their time indoors. The indoor air at an office building, school and other workplaces could be contaminated by a variety of gaseous and particulate contaminants that are sometimes present in concentrations above those which cause adverse health effects. These indoor air pollutants (IAP) are mainly emitted from building materials, furnishings, office appliances/equipment, consumer products, cleaning/maintenance materials, combustion processes (e.g., tobacco smoking, fuel-fired cooking or space heating), and outdoor air pollution [1].

The built environment affects our well-being and this in turn influences our effectiveness in the workplace [2]. Poor environments contribute to absenteeism and to people not working as well as they might. High-quality environmental design is an investment, as occupants are healthier, staff-retention rates are higher, productivity is higher and sustainability ideals are more likely to be met. Workplaces reflect the culture of companies and are places that are not just functional and convenient but give the occupant a wholesome experience. People who work in "green" built environments are less likely to suffer from fatigue, headache and even skin irritation, according to a study by Building and Construction Authority (BCA) which has found in various studies [3] that the benefits of such buildings stretch beyond saving energy.

What is ‘Green Mark Certification’?

BCA’s Green Mark is a “green” building rating system that evaluates a building according to its environmental impact and performance. It provides a comprehensive framework for assessing building performance and environmental friendliness. Green building certifications aim to achieve sustainable buildings that are healthy, energy-saving, and environmentally friendly. To construct healthy built environments for occupants, a high indoor environment quality (IEQ) has to be maintained. BCA has found that those working in Green Mark-certified buildings were more satisfied with their office's temperature, humidity, lighting, air quality and indoor environment [4]. Buildings are Awarded the BCA’s Green Mark Certification Based on Four Key Criteria:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Water Efficiency
  • Site/Project Development and Management (Building Management and Operation for Existing Buildings)
  • Good Indoor Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Innovation

Under the Green Mark assessment system, points are awarded for incorporating environmentally friendly elements that go beyond normal practice. The assessment identifies design features where specific targets should be met. Meeting one or more targets indicates that the building is likely to be more environmentally friendly than buildings where the issues have not been addressed. The total number of points obtained during the assessment provides an indication of the environmental friendliness of the building design.

Managing the air handling unit (AHU), which is a large piece of equipment that alters the temperature and pressure of air being distributed throughout a building. Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems consumes nearly 50 to 60% of the total power consumption in any building and thus, offers huge potential and challenge to reduce the energy consumption by employing various innovative systems designs. The increased intake of outdoor air can significantly impact the cost of energy through increased cooling and heating requirements dictated by the design of new or retrofitted HVAC systems. Thus effectively managing the AHU and HVAC systems will help any building move towards water and energy efficiency.

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is one of the most widely used green building rating system in the world, primarily in US based companies. The LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. LEED certification is applicable for all building types and all building phases including new construction, interior fit outs, operations and maintenance and core and shell. 

Key Requirements of the LEED v.4 IAQ Assessment

The most significant modification involves the number of points awarded to verify IAQ. Under LEED v.4, two points are awarded for IAQ testing, and only one point is awarded for building air flush-out. In previous versions of LEED, baseline IAQ testing was required for Total VOCs (TVOCs). In LEED v.4, expanded testing for specific VOC chemicals is required in addition to the test for TVOCs. The number of sampling locations required for testing under the LEEDS v.4, is determined by the size of the building, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) distribution, and the uniformity of space types. Further, additional testing for ozone and fine particles (PM2.5) are required for building spaces.

Another critical advantage of the IAQ testing during Green Mark/LEEDS certification audit is that the IAQ results provide objective data that can be used for documentation and communication purposes. By getting a baseline metric of pre-occupancy IAQ conditions, the owner has scientifically sound data that proves the success of the multiple measures used to enhance IAQ and improve water and energy efficiency in the buildings.

As the building efficiency will become more leaned towards ‘Greener Building’ IAQ Assessment is a very effective tool to communicate project success and improvements in the facility with occupants and other stakeholders. This also provides measurable air quality data that can be used as a baseline by facility managers in the future as a part of the SS 554: 2016 Code of Practice for IAQ for Air-Conditioned Buildings when performing the measurements and testing of thermal comfort, chemical, physical and biological parameters.

Industrial hygienists and Indoor Air Quality consultants are able to help facility management conduct Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Assessments as well as review effectiveness of building energy efficiency to help building managers in attaining their Green Mark Certification and LEED certification plans. For detailed advice on IAQ assessment and specific management measures in your workplace, please contact mailto:consulting@iom-world.sg


[1] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3298/5/1/4

[2] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/green-buildings-also-better-for-health-not-just-more-energy-efficient-bca-study

[3] https://friendlybuildings.bca.gov.sg/industry-professional-ud-7-principles-of-ud.html?scroll=content

[4] https://www.bca.gov.sg/GreenMark/others/GM_HW_2018_Pilot.pdf

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87% Of Occupational diseases comprises of Noise induced deafness (NID)