In early April, USGBC’s President and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, said, “The green building community has a historic opportunity to use medical science to create better buildings. Human health as a pillar of sustainability has long been reflected in LEED, and GBCI’s new role as the third-party certifier for the WELL Building Standard will enable us to take that commitment further while making it easier for LEED users to incorporate health and wellness more deeply into their work.”
In January of 2014, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) had released the AIA Health Action Plan and the AIA Energy Action Plan. “By promoting physical activity and saving electricity, Stair Week Michigan explores design and health at a unique angle with our communities. This coincides with AIA’s Design & Health Initiative and is currently a high priority,” said Jeffrey Ferweda, AIA Michigan President Elect, and Partner of Sedgewick & Ferweda Architects in Flint.
“Public health is increasingly focused on policies and designs that promote daily physical activity in schools, work sites and communities,” said Guy St. Germain, Western Upper Peninsula Health Officer. “Building designs that invite people to take the stairs, road designs that are safer for walking and cycling, and streetscapes with ample width for walking and bike parking promote healthy lifestyle habits that can reduce rates of chronic disease.”
In downtown Lansing, the quadruple LEED Platinum Christman Building, had included health considerations early on in its sustainability planning. The company has an in-house “BUILDwellness” program within its eight offices in five states. Angela Bailey, VP Marketing and Corporate Communications, Christman Company, described, “The great daylighting and ventilation in the building are just two of the creature comforts that our employees and guests alike enjoy about this building. Another feature is the central courtyard opening up from the 4th floor to the 6th. It floods the space with natural light while performing its envisioned role of encouraging constant interaction between employees.”
Built as an insurance headquarters in 1928, the historic renovation of the building was undertaken by the AE firm of Smith Group JJR, and Christman’s own real estate development and construction company. The original five-story, limestone-trimmed, red brick office building’s prominently placed main stairway and front facade were carefully restored while an additional floor with a new set of stairs were added to the roof, creating the new 6th floor space, which provides outstanding views of the state capitol and cityscape.
In downtown Grand Rapids, the Michigan State University’s (MSU) College of Human Medicine completed a LEED Gold Secchia Center on Michigan Avenue in 2010. Though the building, designed by URS, was completed before the USGBC pilot credit library was fully developed, the “Design for Active Occupant” LEED pilot credit would have been an easy fit as the central circulation is dominated by the daylit stairs with way-finding signage. These spaces were important because there is no student union nearby to allow gathering between classes. Active spaces creating “Social Capital” are now seen as a positive outcome of green buildings.
Innovative buildings also attract forward looking research. “With a commitment to health care for all, nations will be pushed by economic necessity to adopt molecular preventive medicine that is based on scientific research and best practices. The consequence of these future advances in health care is that most humans will enjoy long and healthy lives,” said Dr. Luis Tomatis, MD, former Chief Cardiovascular Surgeon at Spectrum Health.
Since its opening last August, the Downtown Market in Kent County has set a new precedent for innovation in access to nutrition, with a farmers market, a market hall for local food vendors, an K-12 education kitchen, a greenhouse, and an incubator kitchen. Designed by Progressive AE, the Downtown Market is on track to be the first LEED certified Market Building in the country.
Green buildings are merely a start. Companies in Grand Rapids know how to capture the heart and soul of an active workplace culture. On Start Garden’s website, the description of the city’s average bicycle commute is: 6 stop lights and the average phone call is: 37 steps. “The images and metrics can be so compelling when we embrace active living,” said Joyce Lee, Founder of Stair Week.
Stair Week Michigan, supported by USGBC, AIA, IIDA, United Way and the Michigan Fitness Foundation, is scheduled for September 8-14 in 2014.
Joyce Lee, FAIA, LEED AP
President, IndigoJLD LLC