Anne Torney is a partner at the design firm Mithun.
At the portfolio scale, the Green Health Partnership worked with GRESB—an investor-driven organization that sets the global standard for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) assessment of real estate portfolios and infrastructure assets—to help develop and launch the GRESB Health & Well-Being Module in March 2016.
“The intent of the GRESB Health & Well-Being Module is to inform and help investors understand the performance of their investment and build health into that understanding,” Worden says of the module, which is an optional supplement to the GRESB Real Estate Assessment.
Similar to the concept of how the Integrative Process for Health Promotion within LEED defines a process for project teams to prioritize actions based on existing health needs and opportunities, the GRESB Health & Well-Being Module assesses the existence of processes for health and well-being promotion at the scale of a real estate portfolio. The module considers how a company assesses the presence of processes to meet health needs and prioritizes action within their real estate products on the well-being of customers and the communities surrounding individual real estate assets.
Part of the rationale for focusing on these two different scales was recognizing that, in order for individual project teams to be innovative in applying new types of tools, there needed to be demand for those tools as well as capital funding available to address health in a more intentional manner at the individual project scale.
Many project teams are already beginning to work with the Green Health Partnership and pursue the pilot credit. Researchers from the Green Health Partnership also provide technical assistance to project teams pursuing the credit, and, in so doing, gain a better understanding of what additional resources and guidance are needed.
“The overall concept of health can sometimes be overwhelming, so we help teams think through the various ways that a given project could impact health,” Worden says.
Kallechey and his team, along with staff from the Colorado Health Foundation and the Green Health Partnership, are in the final phases of pursuing WELL and LEED certification for their project in Denver. Intentionally located in the uptown neighborhood, the building is in a prime, up-and-coming area.
“The Colorado Health Foundation wanted to have their building in a place that was prominently located in the communities in which they work,” Kallechey says. “They wanted their building to embody their mission of not only making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation but also an example for people in the neighborhood.”
Kallechey and his team were connected to the Green Health Partnership through the Colorado Health Foundation, and, as they began conceptualizing what the project might look like, formed principles focused on health, wellness, and sustainability. They started concept design work for the office building when the pilot version of the WELL Building Standard was released, and they discovered that many components of the WELL system were in line with the Colorado Health Foundation’s mission.
Sansome and Broadway Family Housing’s design, central location, supportive services, and large roof garden with a play area communicates a sense of permanence and dignity.
The building was designed with the physical and mental health, as well as social equity, of the people in the surrounding communities in mind. A grand circular stair placed at the focal point of the building’s design encourages tenants to use the stairs more often throughout the day, operable windows that allow for individual control over thermal conditions are installed within 25 feet of each work station and help maximize daylight.
Other features include vegetation inside the building, which helps connect its occupants with nature, an entry courtyard decorated with tables, chairs and planters that functions as both a welcome space before entering the building and as an extension of the office environment, two roof decks including one that is directly off of a fitness room with free weights, cardio equipment, and organized group classes, and a cherry tree orchard on the south edge of the site that serves as both a meeting place for employees and a recreational space for public use.
“As urban infill continues, and the neighborhood and city are built up over time, that’s one of those pocket parks that will be a celebration point going forward,” Kallechey says.
The Green Health Partnership has also collaborated with Mithun, a USGBC Gold-level member and Seattle-based integrative design firm that provides architecture, landscape architecture, interior and urban design, and planning services, to apply the pilot credit in a more informal manner in several affordable housing projects that Mithun is designing in California.
“It’s important that design firms like Mithun institutionalize the process for health promotion within their practice for building. The degree to which our partners have been institutionalizing those kind of processes in their practice, that’s what success looks like to me,” Pyke says.
One of those affordable housing projects, a mixed-use building to be located on a vacant lot near the Balboa Park Station in San Francisco, for which Mithun is in the process of doing a site analysis, will promote health and well-being.
“The way these [affordable housing] buildings are set up is to support a social network,” says Anne Torney, a partner at Mithun in San Francisco. “Right now, the site for this project is a big vacant lot. It’s noisy. It’s right next to a freeway. It’s kind of a placeless place. We’re thinking about this building as an opportunity to define a kind of plaza near the Balboa Park Station and to create a sense of place for the community.”
In addition to offices on the ground floor occupied by childcare and community development organizations connected with job training and mental health services for residents, Mithun is considering a café that would be open to residents and the public along with some neighborhood retailers, all of which are intended to help create a sense of community and place. However, Mithun plans to engage in community meetings for several months to determine what the community would like before beginning any detailed designs for the project.
Other health considerations include pedestrian safety issues, such as sidewalk design and how to make pedestrian crossings safer since the site is located near a large transit hub in San Francisco where multiple bus, subway, and metro lines converge; how to tackle noise pollution as the building docks on a freeway, and more. According to Torney, construction for the project will be completed in 2020.
Mithun’s Broadway and Sansome Family Housing provides affordable housing for families, including formerly homeless families, in the heart of San Francisco on a former Embarcadero Freeway ramp site. Photos: Bruce Damonte
“It’s a rich problem when viewed through the lens of health. Health is a great way to engage and determine what should be the priorities as we design this building,” Torney says.
The Green Health Partnership has been working with Mithun to better understand a design firm’s perspective and what kind of tools and resources are helpful for project teams to encourage these designs for health. For both the partnership and Mithun, it’s been an enriching experience.
“There’s a lot of value to the LEED pilot credit because it helps walk people through a process. It asks design teams to engage a public health professional. Public health professionals think in terms of metrics and research-based outcomes. If you undertake a certain design strategy, you want to know based on research that it’s going to be effective in terms of supporting health. Having a much more intentional formal process, I think that’s important if we’re going to transform industry,” Torney says.
“Having a public health person as part of the design team is a very direct path to getting there. Our expertise is design. It’s not all the important research that happens. It’s fabulous to have that link,” says Erin Christensen Ishizaki, a partner at Mithun.
While innovation in health within the real estate industry has, in the past, occurred by addressing health conditions on a more specific basis, from indoor air quality to material toxicity, the Green Health Partnership takes pride in having defined a process for health promotion that encourages project teams to take a more holistic approach to health while also meeting LEED standards.
“What we envision is a time where a project team can get credit as part of a LEED certification for showing that they have intentionally considered health and well-being impacts throughout the entire course of the project, from conception to land acquisition, planning and design, construction, ongoing maintenance and operation,” Trowbridge says.