As businesses around the world look to recover from the negative effects of the pandemic, there is a growing push towards sustainability – for companies to develop and integrate practices that will help them not only to survive but to grow and contribute to the improvement of people’s lives. Sustainable practices that are intended to conserve resources and benefit life, health, and well-being are starting to gain traction as more leaders are realizing the payback and how they could ultimately mean more than short-term survival in the post-pandemic world. According to CB Bhattacharya, H.J. Zoffer chair of sustainability and ethics at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, “profits are a consequence of value creation. And once this philosophy is internalized and articulated by leadership, businesses can take ‘ownership’ of sustainability for the well-being of the planet and its people.”
In built environments, one critical area of focus that is also gaining attention is the indoor environmental quality (IEQ). IEQ impacts sustainability in concrete and measurable ways. The quality of the indoor environment affects the health, comfort, and performance of building occupants. Improvements to the indoor environment that result in a one percent productivity improvement could be the financial equivalent of cutting energy use by 100 percent or more on an annual basis. Efforts to create optimal indoor environmental conditions enable owners and managers to anticipate and avoid negative health effects, and costly liability issues and renovations often associated with IEQ problems. Moreover, providing optimal IEQ builds long-term value for the building and assists in maintaining a high level of occupancy and use.
So what can businesses do to ensure viability amid disruptions caused by the pandemic and position themselves for viability and long-term growth? Here are 3 key sustainable practices that leaders can integrate into their strategies:
Using green building materials and equipments
Adopting green and sustainable building materials and practices helps to conserve resources, lead to fewer toxin emissions that contribute to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and impact occupant health and well-being. The last decade has seen more commitment to using greener building materials such as low VOC paints and formaldehyde-free products. Industrial and manufacturing industries are also heeding the call with factories that are committing to reduce harmful emissions and become carbon neutral.
Measuring indoor environmental quality
IEQ takes into account all the effects that the indoor environment has on health and performance. When people spend 90% of their time indoors, their health, safety and performance rely heavily on IEQ which is affected by a number of factors such as air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, and acoustics quality. As the old adage goes “you cannot manage what you cannot measure.” Measuring IEQ means being able to maintain these parameters in ideal conditions to ensure optimal IEQ and lead to higher occupant comfort and satisfaction levels. Measuring IEQ also helps companies understand the sources of specific problems and address them or implement practical guidance to improve indoor environmental conditions.
Leveraging technology and big data for solutions
IEQ solutions that can help monitor and automate control of ventilation, air exchange and filtration among others can help building owners and facility managers to have a more proactive, data-based strategy to create a sustainable building environment. Aside from the ease and convenience of integration with other building systems and equipment, continuous real-time monitoring provides data that can provide valuable insights for resolving issues and enhancing IEQ. Big data refers to being able to collate and analyze several data points and find correlations between them. IEQ devices that can provide data for specific parameters, a centralized view across different locations, and indices that impact health, performance, and well-being are critical tools that may well provide an advantage to more forward-thinking property owners and business leaders.
The debilitating effects of the ongoing pandemic are undeniable, but a sustainability agenda at this time presents opportunities for businesses to learn how to become much more resilient and better prepared for future challenges. With the rise in interest in health and well-being, people are becoming more conscious of how indoor environments can have short and long-term effects. Those that can demonstrate that their buildings provide a happy, healthy, and productive environment can distinguish themselves in the market. Those who don’t may consequently face more risks and challenges.