Leading architecture, interior design, and space-planning practice Paragon was tasked by GE Global Properties to design and fit-out the GE Africa Innovation Centre (GEAIC), the first green- and LEED-certified GE building in Sub-Saharan Africa.
GE opened its first African-based innovation centre in Johannesburg in June 2016 as part of its investment in developing home-grown solutions for Africa. The R80 million facility is the twelfth GE Innovation Centre globally. It is home to GE’s innovation focus across Africa, within its key business sectors of healthcare, aviation, energy, oil and gas, power, and transportation.
“A holistic view was adopted for the building. We have arrived at a stage of sustainable design internationally, with the minimum level being quite high. Being more than the sum of its parts, the overall fit-out aims to achieve substantially over and above this minimum level,” Paragon Interface Director Claire D’Adorante elaborates.
“The vision was to provide accessibility to a healthy environment and internalise this in the workplace, promoting an integrated and balanced health- and wellness-driven work environment,” D’Adorante comments. ‘Green’ features include an intelligent building-monitoring system, live on-screen energy/waste and water usage reports, and a world-class VRV air-con system, incorporating high levels of fresh air input and heat recovery systems.
The building aims to operate more efficiently than the market average, featuring Xeriscaped gardens and water-efficient planted walls, occupancy-controlled lighting, substantial external views for occupants, acoustically-tested and -designed environments, and efficient water usage.
D’Adorante explains that, in order to be an Innovation Centre, it had to prescribe to global and local best practice towards a more sustainable built environment. The building is currently under evaluation for a Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) Green Star 5 Interior As Built rating and LEED Gold As Built.
“We combined international best practice and localised products in a LEED/GBCSA rated interior, while tying this back to the overall narrative concept, facilitating GE’s high-performance criteria and brand dynamics,” D’Adorante stresses.
The fit-out was designed to be a dynamic and versatile multi-floor space, with innovative and mobile structural elements and furniture. The flexible environment fluidly facilitates collaboration, interaction, and innovation for all users. Conceptually the space is informed by an African geometric design language, drawn from African settlements, fabrics, and surfaces.
These include abstracted circular, angular, and linear fractal elements, integrated into the structural and aesthetic elements of the Innovation Centre to create a uniquely African, yet global, contemporary corporate spatial design.
As the building and fit-out are still relatively new, constant training and user outreach is being undertaken by the facilities team to establish a set user guide. “Common teething issues are more pronounced in the more mechanical systems with regard to user comfort and system usage, as these not only have to provide for all other use cases, but still need to meet the sustainability goals set out,” D’Adorante highlights.
The overall thought process of the design focused on the use of environmentally-sound materials, acoustics, flexibility, ergonomics, visual comfort, waste management and water/electricity reduction in the appliance/technology used. The engineering teams and various sub-contractors (HVAC, electrical, wet services) aided the process with regard to specifying and systematising all the elements necessary for high internal air quality, lighting, and thermal comfort.
The close collaboration between the architect, client, and professional team, including the Green Star and LEED consultant, guided the process. In addition, main contractor TSK Bartlett also strived to use certified adhesives and sealant products, for example. “We also targeted some elements in the socio-economic category,” D’Adorante reveals.
For example, the demountable and glazing supplier sent out specialised technicians from Europe to train the local installation teams on its bespoke products, and their installation, maintenance, and functionality. Additional specialised training included the ceiling contractors on the high-performance ceiling materials used.
Functional spaces include a publicly-accessible Ground Floor with a health-focused work café and digital exhibition centre, collaboration zones, and outdoor collaboration area. The restricted-access first floor is devoted to permanent tenanting, and incorporates agile workspaces and a fully-equipped GE Africa Healthcare training centre. The top floor includes a flexible learning and development centre, collaboration rooms, and multi-disciplinary laboratory. The basement parking includes, showers, bicycles and green leaf vehicles.
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Over 7,600 tonnes of waste have been diverted from landfills, 25,300 tonnes of fossil Green House Gases have been saved, and R24 million in financial benefits have been delivered to member companies of the Western Cape Industrial Symbiosis Programme (WISP). These, and other environmental successes, were celebrated by the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille in her address at the recent inaugural WISP business breakfast.
WISP is a free facilitation service, funded by the City of Cape Town as well as the Western Cape Government and delivered by GreenCape, the Sector Developmental Agency for the green economy in the province. By utilizing an Industrial Symbiosis approach that connects over 490 member companies with unused or residual resources such as energy, water, assets, services, waste, transport, logistics and expertise, WISP enhances business profitability and sustainability within the Western Cape. In addition, for every 290 tonnes of waste that WISP diverts, a job is created. To date, 25 temporary jobs, 17 permanent jobs at member organisations and 63 jobs in the economy have been generated. De Lille said: “It is very encouraging to see opportunity in products that would otherwise have been disposed on our landfill sites. In terms of our new Organisational Development Transformation Plan, we don’t want any further landfill sites to be built in the City of Cape Town. That will help all the initiatives that have come from WISP and its members to grow even further.”
She continued: “Industrial Symbiosis identifies business opportunities to improve resource efficiency and typically results in economic, social and environmental benefits for all the companies involved. It also gives a real expression for the circular economy which aims to see materials used productively for as long as possible before disposal.” De Lille added that the impacts of climate change present very real challenges to Cape Town in general and its economy in particular. “I would like to pay tribute to all the members of WISP who are using this programme to improve efficiencies in the economy and who are contributing to our response to climate change. You are helping to build a resilient city economy that is better prepared to deal with the shocks and stresses of climate change.”
The free-to-attend breakfast highlighted the value that WISP adds to businesses in the city and province with three companies sharing their resource efficiency stories. They detailed the changes they have made to energy and water consumption as well as waste management and how those changes have helped them to improve their business processes, operate more sustainably and save money.
Chris Handt, Operations Manager at ACA Threads, which has been a WISP member since its inception in 2013, unpacked the sewing thread manufacturer’s energy reduction journey. To decrease its electricity consumption, meters were installed in every department throughout the factory and the data from this was then analysed. Based on these findings, further interventions were implemented which included the staggering of machine usage, introduction of a variable speed drive compressor, changing all bulbs in the plant to energy saving ones and putting 131 KW Photo Voltaic (PV) cells on the roof. The outcome has been a drop in the factory’s monthly electricity usage from 130,000 KW to 100,000 KW with a saving of R40, 000. Furthermore, whatever electricity is not used from the PV cells is being pumped back into the grid. ACA Threads aims to continue cutting its electricity consumption and will be utilising lights with timers or motion sensors, replacing old motors with new inverter motors and adding additional PV capacity.
GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Tony Laughton shared that through its water conservation interventions, GSK experienced a 42% reduction in wastage over the past seven years. These have included the use of reject water from reverse osmosis tanks to supply water to the factory’s HVAC cooling towers, the installation of a solar hot water system to reduce water wastage whilst awaiting heating, retrofitting toilets with econo-flush systems and putting demand taps on 42 basins around the plant. After undergoing the City of Cape Town’s Water Star Rating Certification assessment, GSK received a 5-star rating for its water-saving efforts.
Charles Dominion, Owner of Simple Active Tactics SA Pty Ltd, noted the value of waste for his business. As a manufacturer and processor of granular abrasives for sandblasting, most of the company’s products are made by using waste from industry. Through WISP, the company has now been able to add to its product line-up by using recycled glass offcuts from the glazing industry, 200 tonnes per month of which was being dumped in landfills. The resultant product is used as abrasives as well as in swimming pool filtration systems.
GreenCape CEO Mike Mulcahy concluded the breakfast by saying: “There is evidence that there are increasing extreme events happening in regions and cities worldwide as a consequence both of climate change and how we’ve been producing goods and services in the past. There is a massive opportunity for Cape Town and this region to take a leading role in providing solutions to many of these problems. GreenCape’s role is to enable companies to look for these solutions, access opportunities, succeed in their businesses and access the green economy.”
The breakfast is one of the many networking opportunities offered to WISP members, comprising companies and organisations of all sizes, sectors and turnovers within the Western Cape. These are designed to help grow businesses and make them more resource efficient.
What is a green home?
The simple answer is a green home is one that has been built, remodeled, or retrofitted to meet higher standards than conventional construction, with the goal of achieving healthier, more resource-efficient, more cost-effective homes that enhance the lives and experiences the people who live in them.
Generally there is independent, third party verification to document that standards have been met or exceeded. This verification serves as the basis for certification of green homes and provides valuable information for consumers, helping in comparison shopping and decision-making.
There are several organizations that have developed standards for green building and development. Certification by any of these organizations is strong evidence that the home is built or remodeled to higher standards. Here are some of the most widely known and recognized green home standards.
Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification is available for construction and remodeling of commercial buildings, schools and other institutional buildings, homes and neighborhoods.
Energy Star is another set of standards that are widely recognized. Energy Star-certified homes must meet specific standards for energy efficiency, water conservation, and for Indoor air quality and health.
The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) was developed by the National Association of Home Builders. It is the first residential green building standard to undergo the full consensus process and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute.
There are other organizations offering green building certification, many of which are regional or statewide, such as the Build Green New Mexico Standards, largely adapted from the U.S. Home Builders Association standards.
Generally speaking, consumers can feel confident that a “green certified” home does indeed meet higher standards and offers specific, documentable benefits to the homeowner and residents of the home.
Does that mean a home without certification can’t be a green home? Absolutely not! I have worked with many people who have sought to make their homes healthier and more comfortable, enjoyable, energy and resource efficient, and cost effective. Every action taken to enhance these attributes of a home, in my estimation, makes a home more “green.”
There are generally six areas, or attributes, of homes in which standards are established for “green homes,” and in which improvements can be made.
Location: We all know real estate is all about “location, location, location”. But it’s not just status people are looking for today in location – people are choosing neighborhoods based on how they want to live and where they want to spend most of their time. For some, that means being in natural settings with open spaces and views. Others are choosing locations convenient to their jobs, schools, and daily activities that are important to them. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed standards for neighborhood development based on the following questions:
Is your local grocery store within walking distance, and is there a sidewalk for you to trek there safely?
Does your neighborhood boast high-performing green buildings, parks and green space?
Do bikes, pedestrians and vehicles play nicely together on the road?
These questions are becoming increasingly important for people of all ages and in all areas of the country.
Design: We humans spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors. It makes sense that time should be spent in spaces that make us happy, allow us to breathe easily, give us views of nature, bring in plenty of daylight, and make us healthier and more productive. Trends are showing increasing preference for smaller but better designed homes – this means architectural and interior design are becoming increasingly important for better living.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy: Energy efficiency and cost effectiveness rank high with today’s buyers. Buyers are looking at the monthly cost of home ownership rather than the overall price or price per square foot of the home. Most understand utility costs are a significant and growing part of their monthly cost of home ownership, and that an energy-efficient green home with low utility bills can be less costly to own on a month to month basis than a conventional home. Today, renewable energy (usually in the form of solar power) is a top priority for many homeowners. It has proven easy, reliable and cost effective. And, it adds value to a home.
Water efficiency: This is an aspect of green homes that is gaining in popularity throughout the country, and most especially in our desert Southwest.
Indoor air quality: Poor indoor air in our homes can result in a variety of issues, including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, allergies, respiratory problems, and other, often serious, health problems. Many people aren’t even aware the materials used in conventional homes often put out harmful gases. Poorly constructed homes often have moisture problems that can lead to mold and other problems. Poorly maintained heating and cooling systems can compromise indoor air quality.
Materials and resources: Reusing old materials such as brick, wood flooring, beams, windows, etc., is a really cool way to be “green.” There are more recycled and renewable materials available today, giving people maximum choices to express their taste and be green at the same time. One of the most sustainable choices people can make is to makeover an existing home. That’s reusing and recycling at its best.
A home doesn’t have to be certified, nor does it have to address all six of these areas to be green. Bringing a home to higher standards in even one of these areas can a difference. Whether “green certified,” or just “green improved,” what is important is that the improvements are in line with the goals and priorities of the people who live in the home.
Minor Hotel Group (MHG) has moved to cement itself as one of the global leaders in sustainable tourism by implementing the Green Growth 2050 (GG2050) sustainability solution.
MHG has committed its 35 resorts and hotels under the Anantara brand to the Green Growth 2050 program, launched in 2015, with many already undergoing certification. A further 35 hotels under different MHG brands are currently implementing the Performance Measurement solution planned for live operation later in 2016.
“In identifying a sustainability partner for the Hotel Group, Minor was looking for a solution that could take our hotels to the next level. A program with the potential to operate across our entire portfolio”, said John Roberts, MHG Director of Conservation Efforts.
“We found Green Growth 2050 was the only solution that brought together a GSTC recognized Certification Standard, aligned with international conventions including the UN Global Compact, with true measurement of our sustainability initiatives across over 200 GRI and tourism based metrics. The ability to measure and manage performance across all our hotels in the one place, standardizing the group wide recording, was crucial to our decision in moving to Green Growth 2050,” said Mr. Roberts.
Green Growth 2050 CEO, Wayne McKinnon, said: “MHG has one of the most impressive hotel portfolios in the industry combining luxury properties with outstanding service. It is a privilege to have many of them as our current members.”
“When we developed the sustainability framework for GG2050 we wanted to provide a solution designed to take leading organizations like MHG beyond the one-dimensional legacy certification systems currently being used and provide a true cloud-based solution that brought together certification, performance measurement and online learning overlaid with full business intelligence and analytics.”
“Minor’s sustainability performance can be managed across their entire portfolio and segmented by business type, city, region, brand, or any defined grouping. They can compare the performance of their Asian hotels against their Middle Eastern hotels or owned hotels against managed hotels; certified or not certified, etc. to provide both individual hotel management teams and head office executives with unrivalled granularity in managing their sustainability initiatives.”
“All this information is available in user-defined dynamic dashboards specifically tailored to the needs of each organization, and at the touch of a button. Full reporting and data export is also supported.”
Green Growth 2050 Chairman, Professor Geoff Lipman, a long-time industry leader and sustainability advocate, praised the Minor Hotel Group for its commitment to corporate social responsibility: “We decided to create Green Growth 2050 to help move traditional environmental indicators for the sector into the mainstream of industry response to climate change and sustainable development. We spoke to a number of hotel groups – all of whom were positive, but it took the long-term vision of the Minor Hotel Group to join us as a launch partner for the program – we are incredibly pleased to be working with them.
“2015 has been a watershed year for the International Community with three Heads of State Summits – on Development Finance, Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change; setting the agenda for a new socio-economic paradigm. The overarching aim is to stabilize climate change by 2050 but the broader goal is a more caring, inclusionary, resource efficient, low carbon society. Green Growth 2050 is a key tool in the armory of creative and positive change,” he concluded.
Minor Hotel Group (MHG) is a hotel owner, operator and investor, currently with a portfolio of 145 hotels in operation under the Anantara, AVANI, PER AQUUM, Oaks, Tivoli, Elewana, Marriott, Four Seasons, St. Regis, Radisson Blu and Minor International brands. Today MHG operates in 22 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America. With ambitious plans to grow the hotel group to 190 properties, MHG continues to expand the home grown brands of Anantara and AVANI, plus continues to announce strategic acquisitions. For more information, please visit www.minorinternational.com.
Green Growth 2050 is a new dynamic product and service set that links sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility in support of Green Growth. It has been developed by Greenearth.travel, based in the EU and Vision CSR based in Australia. It draws on their multi decade experience as leaders and innovators in creating sustainable travel and tourism frameworks, as well as their extensive partnerships and alliances focused on green economy transformation and climate response.
Bold and innovative
Started in October 2013 as an after-school programme, it has evolved over two years into a fully-fledged school for 45 children, with plans to eventually accommodate 200 learners. Melanie Smuts, CEO and founder of Streetlight Schools, says, “I started Streetlight Schools to demonstrate that we have all the resources available to create a high-quality, innovative education system in some of our most under-served communities. And we can do so by being bold and innovative about how we think about what we need in education, from curriculum to facilities.
The location of the school at ground floor level, adjacent to an open-air courtyard, provides both passive and active surveillance for a safer learning environment in one of the city’s most underprivileged neighbourhoods. The goal was to develop an interactive learning environment by creating spaces that would enhance the Streetlight school curriculum, with an adaptive low cost built form merged with the requirements of a high technology learning model. The result is a multi-functional learning centre that implements green construction practices as far as possible.
“One of our design philosophies is ‘low material, high technology solutions’, meaning that the energy spent on a project should always be focused on finding innovative ways of using readily available, environmentally friendly or recycled materials in a way that minimises wastage.”
Collaboration and contribution
To date, the entire spend on the 1,200m2 project stands at about R1,5m. This has largely been made possible through donations of funds and materials; and the pro-active collaboration of consultants in providing pro bono professional services.
“Jeppe Park Primary is the first school in South Africa to apply for a Green Star SA rating,” he says. “Because of this vision, the innovative educational model, and the fact that the school will be a living laboratory for green education and construction in the same space, people have been very willing to donate materials and professional expertise.”
Material donations include reclaimed carpet flooring that was originally made from old fishnets; low-VOC paint; reclaimed tiles; and reclaimed insulation material (produced from recycled plastic fibre) for thermal and acoustic application throughout the build.
Sustainability in practice
Several innovative measures, employed because of the extremely low budget, contributed towards the Green Star SA rating, and significant cost savings were achieved by ensuring that the design was inherently materials-efficient. This included using dry-wall offcuts, recycled wooden pallets and reclaimed wooden flooring in the library construction; bricks and rubble from the demolition of existing internal structures to build a new entrance ramp and stairs; re-using broken and half bricks as paving; and using reclaimed corrugated sheeting as ceilings in the bathroom stalls. All new OSB boards in the atrium construction were placed to minimise offcut waste to almost 0%, and all timber support beams fit at standard length to reduce wastage to almost 0%.
As the school is located in Jeppe, which is an area with much recycling activity, most of the materials could be sourced locally within 200m of the site. In addition, one third of the total construction team that contributed to the build lives and works within the surrounding area.
Energy and water reduction
Energy reductions have been achieved by using low energy use fittings and Energy Star equipment, together with the metering of all major energy sources; and water reduction has been realised with low flow fittings and the metering of all major water fittings.
Nature forms a holistic part of the everyday life at the school. As well as indoor planting and a courtyard with recycled palette planters, the school has started growing vegetables to supplement the children’s lunches.
In addition to the future roll out of more Streetlight Schools, the vision for this particular site is that the Africa School of Excellence Senior School will move in next to the primary school in 2017, and that it will follow the same model of green construction practices.
“It’s been fantastic to work with the Streetlight staff, professional team and donors on this project – people who are dedicated to making a real difference through their commitment to quality education for all,” Gray concludes. “It’s also been a tremendous learning experience in terms of getting things done with few resources on the tightest of budgets. We’re looking forward to being involved with the vision and roll out of future Streetlight Schools in South Africa.”
The pace of green building in the hospitality sector is on the rise, and it doesn’t require making any sacrifice in the luxury of your stay away from home, according to a new report from the U.S. Green Building Council.
It’s no secret that with operations running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, hotels consume natural resources at a high rate. Representing more than 5 billion square feet of space in the United States alone, there is an enormous opportunity for the industry — and guests — to positively affect the built environment, according to the USGBC.
For years, USGBC has diligently made progress toward greening the hospitality sector. Among these efforts was the establishment of the LEED User Group for Hospitality and Venues, which engages in multifaceted dialogue and peer-to-peer collaboration to identify best practices, lessons learned and ongoing challenges for sustainability in the sector. The LEED in Motion: Hospitality report brings the dialogue to a wider network and highlights the opportunity for triple-bottom-line wins when hotels think sustainably.
Across the world, demand for green hotels is rising. Today, LEED-certified hotels of all sizes are found in more than 40 U.S. states, 31 countries and five continents. It’s a movement sparked in part by guest preferences. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, nearly two-thirds of travelers reported plans to make more environmentally friendly choices over the next year. And while on vacation, 88 percent of travelers turned off lights when not in their hotel room, 78 percent participated in the hotel’s linen and towel reuse program and 58 percent used recycling in the hotel.
In response to this shift, companies such as Starwood’s Elements brand, Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotel Group and Hyatt Hotels include LEED mandates and policies in their design and construction specs. ITC Hotels in India requires not just LEED certification, but also top performance.
The notion of sustainable cities usually conjures environmental themes, but sustainable urban design’s greatest impact could be on economic performance. By creating improved quality of life conditions for residents, sustainable cities simultaneously lay the foundation for wide-ranging economic benefits.
The greatest competition in today’s footloose economy is the fight for human talent, and urban quality of life strongly determines whether cities can attract a smart workforce, as well as the innovative new companies employing them.
Cities weren’t always ideal for business, and for decades the attraction of space and privacy drew people toward suburbia, with businesses following suit. But within the last decade people have begun returning to the city, and this trend symbolically accelerated in 2015 when millennials overtook Generation X as the largest generation in America’s workforce.
This generation is often characterized as smart, single, career-focused and experience-driven — a group attracted to cities with walkable neighborhoods, public transportation options, educational opportunities and cultural activities. But more than just young adults are increasingly drawn to the features of urban living, and employees of all ages are working longer hours, pushing them to live closer to work to free up more precious leisure time.
A changing workforce
Smart companies have taken heed, realizing the benefits of an urban location over a suburban one.
A recent report by Smart Growth America, “Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown (PDF),” tracks the migration of nearly 500 businesses back downtown, with firms citing increased employee recruitment and retention as the main reason for their move.
And the talent pool these companies seek prefers both living and working in vibrant, accessible neighborhoods. As such, the surveyed companies relocated to more central, urban areas that increased their average locational walk scores (from 51 to 88), average transit scores (from 52 to 79) and average bike scores (from 66 to 78).
Some of Corporate America’s biggest names are leading this charge.
In January, General Electric announced it would relocate its headquarters from suburban Connecticut into downtown Boston as part of the company’s effort “to attract the talented workers who prefer to live and work in cities.” Major companies joining the suburban exodus include ConAgra Foods and Motorola Mobility in Chicago, Expedia in Seattle and Zappos in Las Vegas.
The smart (and green) choice for cities
So if today’s workforce prefers modern urban living, and businesses seek locations catering to employee interests, which urban development practices should government and developers consider in long-term city planning?
A handful of urban design features form the core of sustainable cities, all of which have the common objective of being focused on the person (or employee) instead of the car, street or building.
These features, as outlined in the “Green and Smart Urban Development Guidelines” developed by our firm, Energy Innovation, are tailored to human interests while supporting a clean urban environment and healthy economy. The Guidelines outline a dozen features related to urban form, transportation and energy and resource management, comprising the foundation of sustainable urban development.
Five features stand out for cities and businesses seeking smart growth synergy:
- Mixed-use neighborhoods: Intermingling residential, commercial, cultural and institutional spaces makes amenities more accessible. By locating destinations closer together, people feel less need to drive from one place to the other, encouraging them to walk or bike more often.
- Public transit and transit-oriented development: In sustainable cities, public transit becomes an alternative to cars when the distance between destinations is too far to walk or bike. Cities encourage public transit use by focusing development around public transit systems through transit-oriented development, which locates amenities or services near transit stations or on transit lines.
- Non-motorized transit: Non-motorized transit such as walking and biking are priority modes of transportation in sustainable cities, and are reinforced by mixed-use development locating amenities and services within comfortable distances.
- Small blocks form a connected urban grid: Small street blocks create a dense urban grid, enabling direct pathways and making trips shorter and safer for pedestrians and bikers. Narrower streets make intersections less of an obstacle, and when combined with elements such as one-way streets or dedicated bus lanes, help traffic move more efficiently, too.
- Public green space: Attractive public spaces such as parks and plazas bring economic and cultural richness to a city by providing neighborhoods with an identity and sense of community, while also offering an outlet from the clamor of regular city life.
The business payoff
These features have an enormous payoff for a city’s inhabitants — residential and business alike. Our recent study, “Moving California Forward (PDF),” found significant economic benefits from smart growth – a development pattern emphasizing compact or infill urban development to facilitate mixed-use neighborhoods and non-motorized transit options – in California’s urban regions.
Benefits included average annual household savings of up to $2,000 from reduced transportation costs and more than $1 billion in annual public health savings from reduced air pollution and car use, both by 2030.
Sustainable cities directly benefit businesses by attracting a smart and diverse workforce, and indirectly boost the corporate bottom line by improving workforce health and time efficiency. These “payoffs” from sustainable cities fall into four categories:
- Increased time efficiency: Commute times are reduced when people live closer to their jobs, and the transition from private cars to public transit or non-motorized transit reduces traffic congestion. Today, the average car commuter loses 42 hours every year — up to 80 hours in some places — due to traffic. Companies benefit when employees avoid sitting in traffic, earning back nearly two days’ worth of time every year.
- Access to talent: Skilled workers increasingly want to live in walkable and centrally located places close to services, amenities and job opportunities. Not only are companies more attractive to skilled workers if they are located nearby, but their central location accesses a greater talent pool for hiring.
- Improved health: A physically and mentally healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Shorter commutes means more time for people to get involved in activities improving their minds and bodies — research shows every hour per day spent driving increases the risk of obesity 6 percent. Alternatively, biking even just a couple miles to work can increase cardiovascular fitness and reduce cancer mortality. A healthy workforcereduces workplace absenteeism while increasing job productivity (quantity of work) and performance (quality of work).
- Innovation inspired by diversity: Sustainable cities attract demographically and professionally diverse talent — a major catalyst for new ideas. In “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida notes diversity trumps ability in driving innovation and creativity. Access to public spaces, a feature of sustainable cities, fosters interaction among diverse groups of people.
Cities with universities, laboratories and cultural institutions are also the perfect platform for cross-industry collaboration. Mixed-use development facilitates connections through proximity to spaces where people can interact, while walking and public transit encourage unplanned connections and exchanges among people.
The smart choice
The city always has had a dynamic relationship with its businesses, and today’s influx of new inhabitants opens fresh opportunities for sustainable urban development.
In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” A city’s identity is the product of its inhabitants, and it is nothing without them — much like businesses, the identities of which are driven by their employees.
As peoples’ preferences evolve over time, cities must grow sustainably to attract the right mix of new residents and innovative businesses. While “sustainable” sounds complicated, the basic pattern is pretty simple — build up walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods.
It is the city’s role to adopt smart growth features to keep “providing something for everyone” — that’s the smart choice and the sustainable choice. The result will be new liveable places, better for business and the environment.
There are several businesses that contribute to climate change. The business owners are very well aware of the harmful effects being caused. They are opting for several methods to control pollution and the waste that is generated. To operate a green business the companies are being part of online service providers.
How online services support green cause
Online services have become a boon for several companies as it supports green cause. Earlier filing system was prevalent in offices and companies but now the files can be easily uploaded and downloaded online. Services, such as conference lines and screen sharing tools, offered by various companies like CheapWritingHelp.com have made it easier to carry out online training and meetings.
Going digital is the need for us and environment
The printing industries have introduced eco-friendly methods of printing. To go digital means choosing green and this step has proved to be beneficial for the environment. Going digital has a good impact on the environment as it reduces maximum chemical and physical waste. At the same time, digital printing is reliable, effective and of high quality.
Going digital means less use of paper
Digital printing requires paper material but the usage is very less. The energy resources required by print media are more and going digital not only saves the resources but reduces the use of paper giving us a healthy environment. Going digital helps in reduction of costs and wastes as well.
Spreading awareness and advertisement
Encouraging the employees to minimize the use of paper by going digital and choosing online services that support green cause will help the environment. Advertisements through internet and mails can be the best methods of spreading awareness.
Using online services means saying no to the paper records. Everything can be done electronically to support green cause. Online services like go green account, e-commerce have benefitted our environment and it’s beings. In short, going digital is need of the hour.
Over the past 20 years, green construction has gone from a niche enterprise to a major driver of new business. But in 2016, erecting sustainable, profitable green buildings will no longer be enough to stand out. Buildings will also be expected to directly contribute to the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work and learn inside them. For buildings, healthy will become the new green.
The performance of a green building – be it energy usage, water efficiency or just lower utility bills – is important to companies looking for rental space. As this healthy revolution emerges, more of these commercial renters will start concerning themselves with a building’s impact on the performance of the humans who use it every day.
There’s already some evidence to suggest healthy buildings have positive effects on the businesses and workers who occupy them. In a recently released peer reviewed study, researchers from Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment found that a building’s air quality can affect the quality of its residents’ thinking. The study demonstrated that exposure to common indoor pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are found in everything from paint to carpets, can affect cognitive functions. The researchers wrote: “For seven of the nine cognitive functions tested, average scores decreased as CO2 levels increased to levels commonly observed in many indoor environments.”
At the same time, researchers found that, on average, environments with better ventilation doubled their participants’ performance, especially in critical areas such as crisis response, strategy and information usage.
As the connection between where you work and how well you work becomes better established and understood, companies that hope to differentiate themselves as employers of choice will focus on healthier buildings for their employees.
Sustainability will mean transparency
Of course, understanding the built environment also requires understanding everything in it.
Think about the room you’re in right now: you might be sitting on a couch or a chair treated with flame-retardant chemicals that are linked to memory loss or fertility problems. Your carpet might be emitting more of those VOCs, leading to throat irritation or headaches. Your wood floor might be off-gassing formaldehyde. Almost every product in your room contains chemicals that even manufacturers don’t know about or don’t completely understand. And many of these chemicals have health impacts that we have hardly begun to study.
Fortunately, transparency is coming to the building industry. Already, there has been a push for more environmental product declarations, health product declarations and other labels that disclose the makeup of building materials, along with their environmental and human health concerns. And as these standardized reporting measures become more commonplace, so too will the use of materials that prove to be less hazardous to our health.
Rating your building – and your healthWE
As healthy buildings become more mainstream, market-based rating systems such as the Well Building Standard, developed by Delos, will help businesses and building professionals use health and wellness to differentiate their spaces. The first protocol to focus specifically on health in building construction, it prescribes technology enhancements and performance-based measures in seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
Formally launched in 2014, the Well standard is administered by the International Well Building Institute, a B Corp – meaning it has been certified as providing social and environmental benefits beyond the financial bottom line – that has partnered with the Green Building Certification Institute to provide third-party certification. More than 20m square feet of real estate in 12 countries across five continents arenow Well certified or registered, according to Well’s website.
As the world continues to focus on sustainability for the sake of the planet, our definition of environmental sustainability is moving beyond flora and fauna to include the humans in the ecosystem as well. And there is no better front line than the buildings where we spend most of our time. In the coming year, buildings will no longer be considered green if they only do less harm. More of the places where we live, work and learn will begin to actively and intentionally protect and restore our health.
Research worldwide shows that environmentally-friendly buildings are much better for the health of the people who live and work in them, as well as for the Earth.
Buildings that are designed to cut water and energy use and make as little impact on the surrounding environment as possible make life much better for their occupants too.
Studies into 69,000 buildings − homes, offices and factories − in 150 countries show that there are fewer illnesses among residents and workers, who report they are more comfortable and happier. Employers also find they are more productive.
Companies that opt for “green” buildings gain because workers stay longer in their jobs and have fewer absences, while recruitment is easier because new employees are attracted to environmentally-friendly buildings.
Dr. Joseph Allen and fellow environmental health researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US studied reports from across the world into the effect of green buildings on the health of the occupants. Fifteen studies are incorporated into the review, published in the journal Current Environmental Health Reports.
There are now 3.5 billion square feet (0.325 sq metres) of certified green building space available worldwide, and researchers in many different countries have been measuring the effects to see if these buildings are also “ healthier” buildings.
“Overall, the initial scientific evidence indicates better indoor environmental quality in green buildings versus non-green buildings, with direct benefits to human health for occupants of those buildings,” Allen says.
Occupants of green buildings are in general more satisfied with the indoor air quality, their workspace, building cleanliness, and maintenance in general, he adds.
The research measured internal air quality, light, noise and the presence of chemicals that might adversely affect health, as well as asking the people who live and work in them about their experience.
The information is important for future building design because, as the researchers point out, modern humans spend 90 per cent of their time indoors.
To gauge the effect on health and well-being, the scientists looked at many studies that had taken into account factors that influence health − including radiological, chemical, biological and physical aspects of indoor environmental hazards.
They looked at air quality, ventilation, filtration, lighting and acoustics, and studied the architecture, the quality of the canteens, access to natural light, and the building’s surroundings.
In residential buildings, there were fewer asthma and other respiratory illnesses among children, and across all green buildings there fewer cases of sick building syndrome symptoms, with better physical and mental health all round.
The one area that did not score better was acoustics, with several studies reporting lower satisfaction about noise levels.
Where hospitals had been constructed as green buildings, the researchers found a better quality of care for patients. In one study, there were 70 per cent fewer blood stream infections, improved record keeping, and overall patient mortality fell by 11 per cent − although the scientists were unable to pinpoint what factors produced such a startling improvement.