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Integrating Social Equity Into Green Building – Part 3: Design, Construction, and Operations

In part one of this blog series, we established that buildings are only sustainable if they are equitable and accessible for all occupants. In part two, we detailed how to apply these principles to the planning stages and provided resources for improving social outcomes in your projects. In this post, part three, we will outline ways in which we can integrate principles of social equity into the design, construction, and operations phases.

Design Phase

Image of JUST label

JUST Label (https://living-future.org/just/case-studies/ilfi/)

Stakeholders

The earlier you commit to an inclusive and integrative design process, the better. The broader the group of stakeholders involved, the better. For example, consider including members from the following groups, among others, to participate in early visioning and planning discussions and workshops:

  • Leaders of local community groups;
  • Members of future user groups (occupants, tenants, staff, operations team, people with disabilities, etc.);
  • Public health professionals;
  • Local policymakers and government officials;
  • Representatives from local cultural organizations;
  • Specialists in the local natural and social history, ecology, economy, ethnography, building code, etc.;
  • Subject matter experts in sustainability, energy, accessibility, etc.

When possible, recruit project team members from companies that have committed to social responsibility by publishing a JUST Label or other social responsibility report. Companies can pursue a JUST Label and become a resource for others.

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Finding Your Way: Third-Party Assurances for Your Properties

Over the last several months, experts in sustainable design related to human health and interior wellness have developed guidelines, protocols, and toolkits to adapt existing buildings to the ‘new normal’ caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These tools can be leveraged by building owners and property managers to enhance their healthy building strategies, ensuring their properties are mitigating risk with building wellness and safe building protocols. And, once implemented, building teams can earn recognition for their hard work with industry recognized organizations, which will build confidence for tenants and employees.

We’ll be highlighting three programs that complement your ESG and/or wellness goals across any portfolio or building typology. All three were created to be scalable, flexible, easily implemented, and cost-effective. Let’s get started.

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Leveraging LEED for New Construction Post-COVID Part 1

In the post-COVID world, there needs to be a greater awareness that the built environment can protect and promote human and environmental health. Buildings can, and must, play a critical role in delivering a stronger, more resilient public health infrastructure that can help prevent and mitigate crises such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The good news is that we already have effective tools for designing, constructing, and operating such buildings—chief among them LEED and the WELL Building Standard.

We believe people are now more conscious of how the built environment affects their health. As a result, we’re likely to see an increase in investment in sustainable building design, construction, and operation and a corresponding increase in demand for green building rating systems such as LEED and WELL. We may also see the green and healthy building concepts that are included in these systems increasingly integrated into building codes.

USGBC plaque

[Credit: Blanchethouse (username) / Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org]

Certification programs (e.g., LEED and WELL) have been developed though collective effort. They are extremely effective and adaptable tools that project teams can use to ensure that their buildings achieve the best possible performance in terms of protecting environmental and human health. Importantly, these programs continue to evolve, offering ever more effective strategies for improving the built environment, ensuring that buildings adapt to whatever circumstances may arise in uncertain times. But right now, project teams can make immediate use of LEED and WELL, and similar tools, to start preparing for the new reality ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can project teams leverage LEED now? In this series, we’ve highlighted the LEED credits that can be used to guide efforts to make our buildings safe, healthy, and resilient. (In a follow-up series we’ll discuss the WELL features that can be used to guide our post-COVID building work.)

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Smart Buildings

The buildings where we live, work, and play are getting smarter. Even our refrigerators can tell us if we need to buy more cheese while we are at the grocery store. But that’s not what this episode is about. Mostly not.

Today we are talking to David Unger, Founder of Sentient Buildings and an expert in the strategic implementation of IoT technologies that help to create smarter buildings. In an era of data overload, David discusses how his work aims to consolidate and simplify access to information that can improve the efficiency, comfort, and operations of buildings. He also explains why leveraging open communication protocols is the most critical piece to future-proofing your smart building.  (more…)

Improving the Efficiency of Your Single-Family Home

Buying a home can be overwhelming. There are many factors that need to be considered and decisions that need to be made. For many Americans, aesthetics often outweigh certain characteristics critical to a home’s success, such as health, comfort, and efficiency.

To help us evaluate these critical characteristics, we’ve asked SWA’s COO and Mechanical Engineer, Srikanth Puttagunta, to walk us through his recent home-buying experience. Sri discusses ways to maximize a home’s value by taking advantage of incentives, enhancing existing infrastructure, and making the key decisions that may benefit your family’s health and comfort for years come. Join us as we dive into the essentials of single-family home ownership.  (more…)

Getting The Most From Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) are a booming business. In the Northeast, manufacturers report that sales of residential systems have increased by 25-35% per year over the past 5-10 years. We’ve seen more and more systems being installed in all types of buildings.

On this episode of Buildings and Beyond, Kelly sits down with her co-host and Principal Mechanical Engineer, Robb Aldrich, to uncover the potential benefits associated with ASHPs and how to get the most from these systems. (more…)

‘All-Access’ with Peter Stratton

There are approximately 57 million Americans living with disabilities in the United States; worldwide, people with disabilities make up 15% of our population. Given this information, we must do our part to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to opportunities afforded to everyone – starting with equal access to buildings.

This week’s guest is a long-time accessibility expert who serves as the Managing Director of SWA’s Accessibility Services, Peter Stratton. Peter begins the episode with an overview of the existing accessibility requirements in the U.S. and highlights additional measures that should be taken to ensure inclusiveness for all. Join us to learn how we can foster a more accessible built environment through careful design and planning.  (more…)

Our Buildings, Our Health

As we continue to uncover the human health impacts associated with buildings – a space in which we spend 87% of our lives – it is important that we find new and innovative methods of construction to improve overall health and quality of life for occupants.

On this episode of Buildings and Beyond, Robb sits down with SWA’s Managing Director of Sustainable Housing Services, Maureen Mahle, to shed light on the primary health issues found in buildings and discuss the various approaches, resources, and certifications designed to improve occupant health and well-being.  (more…)