A-hah….It’s about the PEOPLE!

Today IDO participated on a panel for the Indiana Sustainability and Resilience Conference sponsored by IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis).  The panel topic was “Resilient Building Design for the Present and Future”.  It is important to note, that this Conference was originally scheduled to take place last April but like many events planned during the COVID Crisis, it was postponed and moved to an all virtual event.

At the time, pre-COVID, I was asked to share my perspective as an Interior Designer through the lens of the event theme, Sustainability as an Economic Driver. We were encouraged to interpret and incorporate that theme in a way that makes most sense to us.

Now, given the experience of the past 6 months of living in a COVID world, I began to view the theme from a bit different lens.  A lens that begins to view “Sustainability as not just an Economic Driver, but one of a necessary basic human need.”

Like the initial intent of this conference; when it comes to Sustainability, Resiliency and the Building Industry, from an interior Environment perspective, I will suggest………..the conversation is making us think differently and is shifting our focus to PEOPLE.

Think about your own COVID experience.

The COVID lock downs has us all thinking about how we want to mix up living and working.

We want our buildings, interior environments & the communities we live, work and play in; to be comfortable, clean, safe and provide a variety of spaces to support what we do and how we do it.  And most importantly we want them to be a place where we want to go.

As we emerge from this COVID crisis, we believe these conversations will begin to shift our focus to more sustainable building practices because these practices support the importance of the Health, Wellness and Wellbeing of PEOPLE.

This pandemic has taught us that the technology (high tech and low tech) commonly used in healthcare setting can also help us reduce the risk of spreading communicable diseases in other building types.  Now all building types will be considering High technology (such as increased ventilation and touchless controls) combined with more low-tech strategies such as social distancing and more robust cleaning and disinfecting practices to control the spread of viruses like COVID-19. To improve public health and safety, these practices will need to be more widely incorporated into both design and business operations.

When we focus on people and sustainable practices….and we apply the lessons we have learned from fighting this pandemic to our future building planning, designs, and operations we will ultimately improve the sustainability, quality and safety of our built environment while helping prevent the rapid spread of future diseases.

How do we design sustainable communities that advance the physical health, financial health, and mental health & equity for everyone?  If you consider the conventional way to measure the success of a business is the bottom line and is still widely considered the norm measurement.  Then if you broaden that consideration to include a Triple Bottom line, the conversation changes.

The Triple bottom line thinking holds that a company should combine standard metrics of financial success with those that measure environmental stewardship and social justice.  As mentioned earlier it was known as the 3P or PPP approach — People, Planet and Profits. In each case it requires thinking in three dimensions, not one.  It’s is important to note, the Triple bottom line idea isn’t new. When John Elkington first mentioned it in the mid 1990’s, he also laid the groundwork for defining environmental and social impacts of a company’s activities.

As the Economist Mark Carney has noted; “Unlike COVID, no one will be able to self-isolate from climate change”……From our interior lens and perhaps from a broader lens of the building industry; by placing the PEOPLE of the 3P equation in the forefront, we now have a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to transform our thinking around Sustainability and Resiliency in the building industry to truly improve the lives of PEOPLE ever where.

Written by Jill Mendoza