Design considerations for health and safety in office buildings

Abstract

It is essential to provide vibrant office environments that enhance the health, safety and productivity of their users, ensuring wellbeing while simultaneously helping users reach their full potential for effectiveness. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all office buildings in Nairobi CBD. As such, the objectives of this study are to establish existing design provisions for user health and safety in selected cases studies, analyse their effectiveness and propose guidelines on the best design strategies for developing conducive offices cognisant of user health and safety needs.

Selected study parameters are adapted from the literary work of the World Green Building Council (2013) titled Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices, and are limited to natural ventilation, natural lighting, access and circulation, fire safety and noise control. Three case studies confined within the context of Tom Mboya Street and its tributaries are selected, namely Gill House, Information House and Richmond House. The case study method is opted for as the study is exploratory and to allow for comparison across the three selected buildings.

Findings from literature reviewed are compared against data from the case studies so as to gauge the performance of the study parameters. In the case of natural ventilation, findings point towards building design aimed at facilitating airflow, including the choice of building orientation, form, depth of layout plans, placement and orientation of openings as well as the ceiling height. Natural lighting considerations also require consideration of building placement away from obstructions, as well as provision of vertically oriented openings and internal surfaces with acceptable reflectance indices. Access and circulation provisions are aimed at ensuring ease of office building use by all users irrespective of their physical or mental capabilities. Fire safety findings point towards incorporation of both active and passive fire protection systems aimed at providing users with safe passage to designated assembly points in the event of fire. Noise control considerations are all aimed at noise reduction and include building envelope insulation, as well as office space design to ensure good room acoustics and increased conversational privacy.

Based on the research findings, recommendations spell out the best strategies for provision of adequate natural ventilation and lighting, incorporation of all users in terms of accessibility, fire protection strategies as well as noise control measures, all aimed at enhancing user health and safety. Recommendations for future research are also outlined, opening doors for expansion of the study subject in future research undertakings.

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