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The Next Generation Of Sustainability: Creating Healthier Workplaces

The next stage of sustainability is spreading throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Owners and employers are prioritizing the health and wellness of their employees in multiple ways.

The Next Generation Of Sustainability: Creating Healthier Workplaces

During our recent Bisnow event, a panel moderated by CBRE senior vice president Meade Boutwell discussed how tenants can have an active role in developing a healthy work space through improving interior air quality, lighting, acoustics and a plethora of other qualities that affect an employee’s day-to-day activities.

The Next Generation Of Sustainability: Creating Healthier Workplaces

SAP, which has 290 locations throughout the world, is among the most active tenants creating sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly offices for its employees. SAP has an environmental policy, supplier code of conduct and corporate code of conduct it gives to prospective landlords, according to Larry Allen Morgan, SAP director of facilities and environmental management system. If landlords cannot comply with these standards, SAP will not lease at that building. The code of conduct looks at how things are produced from the very beginning including the original manufacturing of materials.

Morgan said the upfront cost of these policies is more but it pays off.

“We’re willing to pay more because we see the long-term environmental and social value out of doing that,” Morgan said.

When SAP develops a space, it brings on acoustical and visual engineers and takes a holistic approach. Creating open collaborative environments, for example, calls for muffling the sound.

“If employees say, 'I can’t stand the noise here' or 'I can’t work in this environment,' then we really shot ourselves in the foot,” Morgan said.

The Next Generation Of Sustainability: Creating Healthier Workplaces

The U.S. Green Building Council has worked with several owners, including Facebook, Google, Kaiser and CalPERS, that make health and wellness a priority.

“It’s about recruitment and retention of top talent. Employees are happy and productive,” U.S. Green Building Council executive director Brenden McEneaney said.

His organization is working more with companies to address materials and what goes into them. Companies are often focused on daylighting or using sounds like bird songs to make an workplace more relaxing, but materials are more concrete and easier to measure. It is now about transparency and finding out what goes into those materials. The second part is optimization, meaning what companies are doing to improve those materials.

The Next Generation Of Sustainability: Creating Healthier Workplaces

City and County of San Francisco PACE program manager Richard Chien said a proposed regulation would mandate that city purchases and tenant improvements adhere to cradle-to-cradle certification for furniture, carpets, sealants and adhesives. A rating system would look at materials and products and their energy, water and health impacts and find ways to remove harmful chemicals.

Another city initiative attempts to improve pest prevention in public housing through better design. The initiative instructs the building design on where to place sealants to protect or mitigate pest infestations. About 3,500 public housing units have already adopted this standard.

The Next Generation Of Sustainability: Creating Healthier Workplaces

ESD vice president and director of San Francisco office Aliza Skolnik said not only are there WELL building standards, but other certifications that can monitor the built space including certification from Fitwel that monitors the air quality of a space down to the filtration and ventilation technology used.

Engineers can better improve various systems within a space such as lighting, acoustics and temperature to create a better environment.

“A lot of the essence of the health and wellness movement is to create a built environment where occupants and employees are comfortable and happy and want to be in that space,” Skolnik said.

Skolnik predicts more of the smart building technology will integrate with health and well-being trends. People track their own personal information and she expects there will be a confluence with the built environment as well.