Becoming an Agent of Change through Sustainability: How do our choices and behaviors affect sustainability?
May 17, 2011
Sustainability is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as “the ability to meet our needs without compromising the needs of future generations.” This includes not only the environmental considerations, but also the social and economic impacts. The culmination of the social, economic and environmental impacts is referred to as the “Triple Bottom Line”. It requires doing more with less, adapting to constantly changing technology, and updating our outdated buildings; all difficult to achieve – much less maintain – in this economic climate.
The topic of sustainability can be a challenging one, because it forces us to analyze our behavior and choices. It is as much about planning as it is about the Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). It brings up several “What ifs”: What if including more contractors in the upfront design and planning phase of a project would allow you to integrate your systems to save energy, increase thermal comfort and air quality, and save on long-term life-cycle costs of your space? What if your design team included vendors that have products that accommodate change in the future and thus reduce the cost and labor that is inevitable with expansions? What if these products made your users happier, more satisfied and helped your business attract and retain the best and brightest? How does your behavior and the choices you make affect the “Triple Bottom Line” and thus sustainability?
A recent paper released by DIRTT (stands for Doing It Right This Time) writes, “This is a discussion about our behaviors: The way we approach buildings and the way the buildings ultimately behave…choosing better materials as a substitute for real sustainability is the equivalent of choosing palliative care over a healthy lifestyle.” Also, Bill Stumpf, one of the creators and visionaries of the iconic Aeron Chair, wrote a book titled The Ice Palace That Melted Away. This book addresses behaviors, virtues and civility and how they shape culture and affect sustainability. “Disposable culture”, consumerism, and “material wastefulness” are also topics in this book. He writes,
“In my lifetime, I will use up nearly 20,000 disposable razors, 25,000 gallons of hot water and 500 six-ounce cans of aerosol shave cream (62 shaving years, God-willing, one shave per day). By comparison, in all his years of removing whiskers, my grandfather used less than half a dozen straight razors, maybe two or three honing straps, at best 100 bars of Ivory soap, maybe a dozen shaving brushes, one ceramic later mug, and less than one quart of hot water per shave (75 percent less hot water than I use). I can’t help wondering if in such simple routines I shouldn’t shun an obvious material wastefulness and indifference to the details of daily life and adopt a less material existence in general, extracting more pleasure from the art of living,”
A renewed commitment to planning is an integral step to sustainable projects. Thus, having an integrated project team and proactively planning for change is essential. Proper planning and strategic partnerships enable synergies to happen and allow sustainability to flourish. Stay tuned for our next Agent of Change post on collaboration!
December 3, 2010
“The science is there. Yoga works. What we need to change, is how we talk about it.” Matthew Sanford (Waking Mind and Body, www.matthewsanford.com) when speaking about Adaptive Yoga enabling his severed spine to show electrical activity on an MRI
In the last couple of “Agent of Change” blogs, we discussed Adaptability/ Flexibility and using Inspiration to plant the seeds of change when planning for your facility upgrades. We have heard responses that “Flexibility” is a broad term and “Adaptability” is a term that refers to needs that have not happened yet… so how do we talk about them? How do we use conversation to create a transformation – not only to enable people to visualize change but also learn to problem-solve, cope with complex situations and then keep their minds open to what these new thoughts produce? How do we inspire new ways of thinking to achieve desired results? Just as in Matthew Sanford’s quote, we need to use communication and imagination to inspire better results. Solutions are within our grasp but the conversations that facilitate these solutions are different.
Today, one conclusion is clear: we cannot expect better (or even the same) results if you continue to do things the way you have always done them. With ever-changing technology, rising costs, a troubled economy and a more competitive landscape – these factors are forcing change. Visibility of the impacts/ results needs to improve. Some of these results could be:
- Increased attraction/ retention (in terms of clients, patients, faculty, staff, customers, etc.),
- Greater levels of reimbursement (by means of reducing the number of unreimburseable costs and undesirable outcomes)
- Lower overall cost of ownership through preventing or warranting equipment failure or breakdowns
- Ease of adjusting to future needs (less downtime/turnaround time, less risk due to human factors, ability to deal with constantly changing unknowns, etc.).
- Improve efficiency and excellence
Many of these scenarios are measured on cost-benefit analysis or savings based on what will not need to be spent. For example, it is now appropriate to change the phrasing from “Infection Control” to “Infection Prevention” in Healthcare settings. This change was motivated to transition Healthcare Administrators to recognize infection prevention as a contributor to the bottom line through prevention of infections – rather than a cost center to the hospital. What word do we need to change to make this same transition happen in terms of facilities? What word will show how your facility is an investment in outcomes/results?
Choosing the right products for your facility requires a transition in thinking, communication and a new level of commitment to excellence.
The Problem: “Swiss Cheese Wall” is created from common changes to vendor packaging for sanitizers, etc. These holes create potential problems with infection prevention and maintenance. Usually results in costly fixes to the walls.
Lifespan Equipment Rail provides a simple, modular solution.