The Next Frontier Of Sustainability: Human Wellness
The future of sustainability will be far more comprehensive, with builders and operators concentrating on design that keeps employees engaged and healthy. But there is still work to be done in benchmarking these wellness initiatives, speakers told around 200 industry insiders at Bisnow's Green Building Revolution event in San Francisco last week.
Vice president and director of ESD’s San Francisco office Aliza Skolnik (far right) said occupational wellness was the new frontier. She noted tech and biotech companies are keenly focused on recruitment and retention issues stemming from design and architecture. In this sense, sustainability’s traditional focus on energy efficiency was extended to cover the health and engagement of a workforce. ESD is a consulting-engineering firm.
Enovity principal Greg Cunningham (far left, with Katherine Ryzhaya, Donald Simon and Aliza) talked about working with Google, where his consulting firm incorporated wellness standards and parts of LEED to “define the parameters of a healthy building.” He said it was easy to measure energy efficiency but much harder with human wellness. Greg asked the audience how someone could test for healthy lighting.
PAE associate principal Alan Shepherd talked about engineering’s role in advanced occupant wellness in design. He revealed some things PAE is focusing on in addition to energy design. These include mitigating glare impacts and optimizing ventilation air flow through computer simulations to maximize comfort. He said companies are more likely to pay for a reduction in energy bills that are much easier to quantify than a modification that could reduce absenteeism. He hoped more data would become available so human factors could be benchmarked.
Toto USA head of operations Bill Strang discussed how his company’s toilets and hygiene products could lead to a healthier workforce. Some of the innovations he discussed were bidets and using electrolyzed water or ultraviolet light to clean and kill pathogens in toilet bowls. He said pumping water accounts for 20% of California’s energy output and it's essential to design more efficient products.
Advanced Microgrid Solutions chief commercial officer Katherine Ryzhaya spoke extensively about grid usage and battery storage. As the largest buyer of Tesla’s battery technology for building energy storage, her company installs batteries allowing properties to go off-grid during pricing spikes. A typical unit takes up the volume of two or three parking spaces and reduces power costs from 10% to 20%, she said. The Irvine Co was AMS's first customer with hybrid electric buildings.
Wendel Rosen partner Donald Simon moderated. He co-founded Build It Green and the USGBC's Northern California chapter.