Recent advancements in LEED and sustainable construction are focusing more and more on people’s health and well-being. This means constructing spaces that are healthier environments for people, which aligns perfectly with Miron’s mission to affect the triple bottom line: PEOPLE, Planet, and Payback. This focus on people is also expanding to encompass technologies and advancements in construction materials and smarter systems that are tied together holistically to improve the human experience. A simple, but often overlooked, example is concrete. It’s used in nearly every construction project, and is one of the largest CO2 producers. To mitigate this challenge, there is now carbon-capturing technology used in concrete.
There are two major benefits associated with this people-focused look at building products and technologies:
- Responsive Environments: Smart technologies mean an easier way to monitor (instant feedback) and manage building systems. This means the people responsible for managing building environments will be able to monitor and very quickly (more than ever before) make changes that positively affect the health of those inside the building, which also has a financial benefit.
- Healthier People: People’s health is greatly impacted by the quantity and quality of the air, water, food, movement, and sleep they receive.
With this increased focus on people, it makes sense that the future of sustainability is increasingly connected to wellness. Understanding how we can improve the experience of the humans who work, live, and play in buildings to help them feel better and do their best work is a growing priority.
One new way to achieve this is through a new rating system that came out in 2017—the WELL rating system. It’s very similar to the LEED rating system; however, its primary focus is on measuring, certifying, and monitoring the features of a built environment that impact human health and well-being through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The number one cost to an employer is people—the cost of their employees. Some of the largest issues that we face as a society are morbidity and obesity. People also spend a majority of their time at work, so this focus on improving their life while at work makes logical sense. For instance, one often over-looked challenge is the lack of physical movement throughout the workday. Many jobs have become increasingly sedentary. How do we design and construct spaces and workplace cultures that promote and encourage people to move throughout the day?
In addition to movement, building design is trending toward more square footage dedicated to living plants and foliage, an increased focus on thermal comfort, and lighting systems that mimic circadian rhythms. These lighting systems assist in wakefulness and energy levels throughout the day. For example, how do we integrate lighting systems that minimize the afternoon energy slump, but also bring down energy levels when employees are ready to head home at the end of the day? This type of lighting would allow stress levels to come down, and people would be better able to relax and sleep later in the evening.
Ultimately, the success or failure of these trends will rely heavily upon education. These industry changes will also increase the need for truly integrative design and construction solutions that impact all three components: People, Planet, and Payback. As professionals in the design and construction industry, we need to continue to evolve the way we think about how buildings are built, educate ourselves on the human impact of different types of environmental factors, and help our client partners make smart decisions driven equally by the triple bottom line.
Please see the following videos in which Miron’s Director of Sustainable Services, Theresa Lehman, and Sustainable Services Manager, Chad Pingel, speak more about the future of LEED and WELL.
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