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November 24, 2020
High performance & sustainability, Visionaries

This year, COVID-19 has shown a spotlight on the connection between the indoor environment and our health and well-being. As a result, we're seeing more owners and partners prioritize the health and sustainability of their buildings and seek ways to make a lasting impact.


Recently, we held our second annual Visionaries panel discussion (virtually) around the topic of health, wellness and environmental initiatives in the workplace. Trends, strategies and incentives were discussed by top industry experts. Panelists included Jeremy Faust, Assistant Vice President and Environmental Sustainability Leader for Fifth Third Bank; Chad Edwards, President and CEO of emersion Design and Todd Smith, President of EBEB Solutions.

There were many takeaways from the event. In case you missed it, below, we've highlighted just a few with supporting video clips so you can hear directly from the experts.

What are the health and wellness strategies and trends owners and designers are implementing in the workplace?

The panelists called attention to five main health and wellness topics: natural light, mindful materials, air quality, active design and prioritizing mental health. 

Natural light: We have long-known about the power of natural light and how it can affect our sleep cycles, occupant alertness and job satisfaction - all benefitting our employees' health. Because of this, access to natural light is now considered a necessity.

"Natural light is a driver of performance, heath and satisfaction. We now view it as an employee's right." Jeremy Faust, Fifth Third Bank

MINDFUL MATERIALS: Unfortunately, we still live in a world where there are products that are legally manufactured with known carcinogens. Pepper Construction, emersion Design and other industry partners are working hard to combat this problem and utilize resources like the "red list" to help everyone make healthier decisions. To help discourage these materials from being used, databases like Mindful Materials have been developed to identify healthier alternatives.



AIR QUALITY: Decades ago, we were introduced to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - the negative health impacts and repercussions of building tighter envelopes to conserve energy. This led to serious air quality concerns, and since then, there have been many strategies put in place to combat this health concern. At Pepper, we're researching all aspects of air quality to help owners make informed decisions about the systems they choose and modifications they make in their building. Read more about the factors that impact indoor air quality and strategies behind how to create a healthier environment.

ACTIVE DESIGN: There is a shift from individual, static spaces to diverse spaces to encourage flexible movement throughout an employee's day. The panelists shared that finely-tuned ergonomics actually encourage people to sit still longer, which in turn has a negative impact on their health. The key is to select furniture configurations and working conditions that also encourage people to get up and move around.

PRIORITIZING MENTAL HEALTH: Industry experts are exploring how to address mental health conditions through design, which is expected to become an even higher priority as we learn more about how the pandemic has affected people.

"If you think back to those big moments in life, whether you were entering an elementary, middle or high school for the first time or you were starting college, there's a lot of potential mental health issues, and we are learning how to better design for those situations."

Chad Edwards, emersion design


What are some of the financial incentives for implementing health and wellness strategies in the workplace?

In 2018 congress passed a new tax law that promotes energy efficiency and building healthier facilities. However, it was structured so if a company only builds to code, they do not receive the incentives. To uncover the cost benefits associated with health and wellness, you must go above and beyond the required building code and invest in your people. Watch Todd Smith talk through some of the examples of these incentives at work. 

Another way to explore health and wellness cost benefits is to look at the 3-30-300 rule. Watch as Chad Edwards explains how a small investment in your people can lead to big returns. 



What are some of the sustainability strategies and tools being utilized across the industry?

When it comes to sustainability, there is an abundant amount of strategies to explore and finding a starting point can be overwhelming. Our panel points out some of the more impactful approaches and tools their companies are using to create and execute their sustainability plans. 

POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT (PPA): This strategy allows companies to scale their renewable energy goals. Here, Jeremy Faust discusses Fifth Third's renewable power targets and how they plan to achieve them.

Energy Use Intensity (EUI): This tool measures the energy use of a building. Watch as Chad Edwards explains EUI and how it is used to analyze workplace energy consumption.



LIFE CYCLE COST: Savvy owners understand that a building' operating costs account for more than 60% of a building's total cost. That's why at Pepper we created a tool to help owners analyze operating costs along with construction costs. It analyzes a building's energy consumption and evaluates high performance options based on different systems. Read more here about Pepper's high performance tool.


What are the most impactful financial and tax incentives for implementing sustainability strategies in the workplace?

Incentives vary, but industry experts agree there are more incentives for applying sustainable strategies today than ever before. In this video clip, Todd Smith breaks down a few examples of how green initiatives can lead to significant long-term savings.


How can you get started on your workplace high performance plan?

WHOLISTIC PERSPECTIVE: Health and wellness and sustainability should be viewed as one because their supporting initiatives are interconnected and cannot exist alone.

As such, one of the strongest recommendations made by the panel was to always look at the workplace with a wholistic lens and approach your project with an integrative design approach.

SET GOALS AND BUILD A NARRATIVE: The panel agreed that setting goals and creating a strong, consistent message is an essential part of the high performance planning process. Building a story that your entire team is passionate about and uniting the group around a common purpose is key.

"The best tool in the tool box is attitude. If you have the right attitude with the right team, you can achieve great things"

Chad Edwards, emersion design

At Pepper, we believe every project has the potential to impact the lives of the people who live, work and play there. The professionals behind these ideas have a unique perspective on the built world and the influence it has on the communities these structures serve. We created our Visionaries series to discuss trends and emerging topics with industry leaders like these to educate our communities and encourage action.

We received several follow-up questions following the presentation so we've assembled a list of resources and tools for more information about the strategies, trends and incentives that were discussed. Or, we invite you to contact us with questions or ideas.

The entire panel discussion is available for your viewing convenience below. 

About the Author


Evan Caprile, LEED® AP BD+C, GACPProject Manager, High Performance, Ohio

Evan joined the high performance group because he wanted to wanted to make the environment more sustainable for the people who use the buildings and the neighborhoods in which they are located. As project manager, Evan manages the LEED documentation and sustainable building strategies. He also uses his previous estimating and virtual construction experience to do energy modeling, which assesses the efficiency of a building in the design stages of the job and evaluates the life cycle costs of building systems in conjunction with our cost estimating.

Evan is a LEED AP BD+C and a Green Advantage Certified Practitioner. He is also a member of the United States Green Building Council Emerging Professionals. Evan earned his Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in History from Miami University.