“It’s becoming clear from this initial research that doctors and other health professionals must engage with architects and the design community in a major way if we are to be successful in improving public health through design,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. “We look forward to furthering that dialogue with physicians and to helping support additional research into this critical public health issue.”
The report is the first research project to span across the five key stakeholders that influence the prevalence of healthy design and construction practices in buildings: physicians, construction industry professionals in both residential and non-residential sectors, HR executives, and homeowners. The full 100-page report was released to the public on June 26. Download it here.
The mission of Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education project is to empower youth and adults to discover and participate in a local food system that encourages healthy living, nurtures the environment, and grows a sustainable community. This is accomplished by practicing responsible land stewardship and managing and supporting urban organic farms, and providing food access for all by developing alternative food distribution & food donation programs that target under-served communities. The project has developed a food and environmental education program which includes classes, hands-on workshops, tours, job training and youth leadership development. At its center, its objective is to bring people together to celebrate cultural diversity and reconnect with the land.
The improvements to the Schoolhouse (originally an Air Force barrack) - in particular the 986 square foot classroom and meeting space – have created a healthier, more energy efficient and welcoming place and established a more inspirational educational experience for staff, volunteers, youth and other visitors that participate in Soil Born classes and activities. In addition, by upgrading the space and renting it for events such as meetings, corporate retreats, trainings and weddings, revenue can be generated for the non-profit which decreases dependence on grant funding.
Capital Branch began acquiring funds by arranging raffles at our events; this gave us an opportunity to get our membership familiar with Soil Born Farms and build an interest in the project. Members of our Leadership Team visited the site and discussed the objectives and desires of the Executive Directors, allowing us to establish a plan and determine what materials and resources were needed. Prior to the first workday, a volunteer HERS Rater performed air infiltration and weatherization assessments on the structure, including duct blast and blower-door tests. These tests will be performed again after the first phase of the project is finished so we can measure the improvement achieved in reducing infiltration.
The initial phase of the Schoolhouse renovation included the following: weatherizing the building and increased its efficiency; replacing the existing exterior staircase in poor repair with a new stair that meets ADA accessibility standards; making the original double hung windows operational by repairing broken glass panes and restoring them to their original glory, which allows for natural ventilation and climate control; painting the interior of the classroom with a warm and updated color palette, and new carpet. By applying for grants and donations from material houses and contractors we were able to obtain the wood, paint, glass, and tools needed to complete the work. In fact, material donations were so successful that we were able to set cash donations aside to be used on the next phase of our project, which includes a new roof, insulation of the perimeter walls of the Classroom, improved lighting & new ceiling fans.
Soil Born has a great story to tell, and we’re not the only group that finds their vision appealing. The USGBC-NCC Capital Branch will provide our expertise in support of the next phase of renovations led by Rebuilding Together Sacramento. SBF is in the process of developing a Master Plan for the site which includes design of a commercial kitchen, greater connection to the public and the adjacent river bike path. Sacramento County intends to build an Interpretive Center on-site to celebrate the American River Parkway, one of the under-rated gems of the Central Valley.
We hope other Northern California Chapter Branches consider adopting a Community Service project; it’s a great way to build community among our members and help the community at-large.
To find out more about Soil Born Farms organization and programs please visit: http://www.soilborn.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=105
Facilitated by USGBC-NCC and a remarkable confederacy of expert advisors, the Building Health Initiative is an ambitious two-year program in which industry leaders from multiple sectors make specific pledges where they are best positioned to affect the most positive change for healthier built environments. These pledges include demanding transparency in building materials, conducting groundbreaking research, promoting health and wellness, building the “business case” for healthy buildings, providing consultation and education, and more. The initiative has also spurred powerful cross-sector working groups focused on revolutionizing procurement strategies and fostering diversity and access to healthy buildings in traditionally underserved communities.
Following its high-profile launch late last year at the Super Heroes Gala, you may be wondering, what is the Building Health Initiative up to now?
At the start of 2014, I personally joined USGBC-NCC to help develop and produce the Building Health Initiative (a little about my background here). Since then, eight new partners have joined founding partners Google, Kaiser Permanente, salesforce.com, CalPERS, Genentech, and Adobe, increasing to 36 the total number of world-class companies and institutions involved. The new partners include Facebook, Healthy Buildings, Healthy Building Science, iSEEED, Public Health Institute, Shaw Contract Group, Troon Pacific and UL Environment.
The full roster of partners is meeting in mid-June to collaborate and share updates on their Building Health Initiative pledges, which in the months ahead will develop into case studies housed on a new Building Health Initiative web portal (build-health.org) along with best practices, business cases, sample vendor letters, videos, and additional industry-leading resources.
For the duration of the initiative, USGBC-NCC is rolling out a series of timely public educational events spotlighting the many aspects of healthy buildings and communities. Earlier this month we hosted a well-attended lunch-and-learn on “Toxic Flame Retardants: What You Need to Know,” which included a stirring presentation by Tony Stefani, a retired captain of the San Francisco Fire Department who founded the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation in 2006 after surviving his own battle with the disease.
In April, USGBC-NCC’s Silicon Valley branch organized a popular gathering at Google on “Workplace Performance: Strategies for Indoor Environment and Occupant Engagement”; in March, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory presented yet-unpublished research on indoor environmental quality to Building Health Initiative partners; in February, we screened the film “Unacceptable Levels” at the Embarcadero Theater. On top of that, the Building Health Initiative was presented in one form or another at the Green California Summit, BuildWell, LEED v4 events, a healthy materials conference hosted by the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, and other high-profile gatherings. All the while, press coverage has remained robust.
Public Building Health Initiative events in the months ahead will deal with a wide range of provocative health and green building issues, including the innovative use of biophilia in commercial environments, dealing with the health issue of climate change through the built environment, democratizing health data in underserved communities, tackling liability concerns in building materials transparency, and developing healthy workplaces on a global scale. Don’t miss the Building Health Initiative theme woven throughout USGBC-NCC’s annual GreenerBuilder conference on June 18, including the session “Designing for Health from the Inside Out: Healthy Buildings and Healthy Communities.”
This unprecedented year will culminate Dec. 11 with the highly anticipated Building Health Forum, a first-of-its-kind cross-sector event welcoming 250 industry leaders to the University of California San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus for inspirational plenaries, receptions and three educational tracks covering the most vital (and sometimes controversial) components of a healthier built environment. Event announcements are coming soon, but be sure to the save the Dec. 11 date now.
How can YOU get involved? There are myriad ways:
- Join our email list to stay abreast of events, updates, etc.;
- Propose your company or organization become a Building Health Initiative partner;
- Join the U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter to receive major discounts on Building Health Initiative events in the coming year;
the Dec. 11 Building Health Forum;
to the soon-to-launch build-health.org web portal;
- Help spread the amazing work of Building Health Initiative partners to your professional and social networks!
If there’s one thing I’m learning on the front lines of the healthy building movement, it’s that of the many complex sustainability challenges the world faces, today’s ambitious efforts dealing with health and wellness in the built environment will yield real, tangible—and immediate—results at the community level and also at the personal level. I’ve never seen as broad and powerful a consortium of companies and institutions come together ready to seize that type of opportunity. Thank you for supporting the Building Health Initiative.
This educational and somber tale has the potential to rally people towards creating a healthier environment. We are partnering with Yekra to promote this important work and spread its message. If you missed the screening, want to see the film again, or would like to share it with colleagues or friends, you can rent or purchase it online. A portion of the proceeds from each purchase or rental will come back to USGBC-NCC to support our ongoing work to build healthier buildings and sustainable communities for generations to come.
Help us spread the word about "Unacceptable Levels"!
The new Greenwash Action report, however, contends Green Globes sets low standards, awards points for simply following buildings codes and applies a flawed assessment for energy efficiency. Greenwash Action accuses Portland's Green Building Initiative, the organization behind the Green Globes standards, of being a front group for the timber, plastics and chemical trade associations. The report names the American Forest and Paper Association, Vinyl Institute, American Chemistry Council and Society of the Plastics Industry as some of the trade groups that financially support GBI, according to the E&E article, whereas no environmental groups are represented in GBI's membership or board. A Treehugger article points out the chemical and plastics industries have fought LEED for years due to worries it might list their products as "chemicals of concern."
Read articles in the Washington Examiner or Treehugger.
Baca is an expert health advisor for the Building Health Initiative, an unprecedented two-year program in which industry leaders from multiple sectors pledge to promote health and wellness, take simple but effective actions to catalyze industry transformation, and create market demand for product transparency and healthy places.
Reserve your seat now – Baca is also speaking at the June 18 GreenerBuilder conference in South San Francisco.
2014 Greenprint Summit speakers shared the latest research showing why our communities should be designed for health with trees as the green anchor of the built environment. Videos of presentations by additional speakers, including Dr. Anthony Iton of the California Endowment and Dr. Bill Sullivan of the University of Illinois, can be found here .
When you purchase Sungevity solar through USGBC-NCC, you directly support our mission to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves quality of life. By sending Sungevity a request for an iQuote, you will immediately get connected with a solar specialist who will help you understand if your house is eligible to be powered by the sun.
Next, when you're ready to plug in, you’ll get a $750 credit from Sungevity. At the same time, USGBC-California will receive a $750 donation. Everybody wins. To date, Sungevity has donated over $1 million to nonprofit organizations who partnered in this program.
Don't be shy – There's not better time to go solar in California!
That’s how I felt at the end of the day on Thursday, February 20, when USGBC, the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry and the USGBC Northern California Chapter jointly hosted a full day event on that topic. Speakers and panelists representing the fields of design, construction, product manufacturing, policy, health, law, and academia came together to share ideas, have productive dialogue, and probe more deeply into the topic of materials and health.
Throughout the meeting we collected feedback from participants on their observations and useful resources they’ve encountered. At the end of the day we asked them to share one particularly meaningful observation, remark, resource, or approach they took away from the event. Here are some of the highlights:
- Only 5 out of over 84,000 chemicals in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) database have been banned or restricted by the EPA in the 38 years since TSCA was passed in 1976.(Read the article by USGBC senior research fellow Megan Schwarzman for more background on TSCA.
- Chemicals are treated as “innocent until proven guilty” with regards to their health effects due to flawed national policy. Why is the burden of proof on the public rather than industry?
- There is a lack of information about materials ingredients and their health effects, and there are barriers to accessing what we do have. Let’s get beyond talking about data gaps and focus instead on how emerging professionals can think and act differently to address these issues and work around data gaps.
- We need to include social equity in the discussion. All people, regardless of socioeconomic status, should benefit from healthy buildings.
- Focus first on schools and daycares and take precautions to protect our most vulnerable populations.
- Being able to use a financial argument or incentive can really work. Consider purchasing power as a way to demand change.
Listening to all the speakers and comments, I quickly realized how nuanced and faceted this topic is. Chemists, toxicologists, public health and policy experts, materials scientists, product manufacturers, designers, and construction professionals often use different terms when discussing materials and health. But the simple truth is that, while we don’t always speak the same language, we do have similar goals. Can LEED provide a common language and framework to bring our communities together and facilitate progress?
My biggest takeaway from the day was that market influence is the most powerful tool we have, no matter what your role is in the supply chain or how you relate to materials and health. One third of the observations we collected during the Berkeley event had to do with market influence and the idea that we, the consumers, drive demand.
What can you do? Keep asking questions, dig deeper, bring this topic up with co-workers and clients, and request more information on the products we put in our buildings and the chemicals we put in our products. We drive demand. We have the purchasing power. Let’s use it!
Realizing industry-wide change on this topic will be a marathon, not a sprint, I am invigorated to be at the starting line surrounded by others who also see a long but attainable path to a finish. Come join us. This was the first of several events that USGBC and our partners will be hosting throughout 2014. Sign up here to be notified of future health and materials webcasts and events.
Suggested resources from the attendees:
Health Product Declaration Collaborative technical director Eden Brukman recaps her panel discussion on materials and health, outlines barriers to market transformation, and shares her vision for a healthier future in the built environment.
Insights from a Panelist - Eden Brukman Berkeley, CA from U.S. Green Building Council on Vimeo.
Keynote speaker Ted Schettler explains why he feels the topic of health and materials is so important in the built environment.
Insights from a Panelist - Ted Schettler Berkeley,CA from U.S. Green Building Council on Vimeo.
Blog post written by David Marcus, Project-Based Learning Coordinator at the U.S. Green Building Council, and was originally posted to the national USGBC blog.
New research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) addresses just that.
At a March 13 exclusive Building Health Initiative partner event, the U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter welcomed researcher Wanyu R. Chan, Ph.D., to its offices to provide summary findings on ongoing indoor environmental quality (IEQ) research from LBNL's Indoor Environment Group.
LBNL’s Healthy Zero Energy Buildings (HZEB) program generates information for the California Energy Commission to develop ventilation standards that provide for occupant needs while avoiding over-ventilation. Chan presented summary findings from a series of field studies, laboratory experiments and model simulations on indoor air quality, building ventilation and occupant outcomes. Time was then allotted for Q&A and discussion with Building Health Initiative partners.
Building Health Initiative partners expressed interest in learning more about what Chan referred to as DALYs, or “disability-adjusted life years.” Click here to download DALY research from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Photo by Tom Oliver.