Last January the 3R team dubbed 2020 “The Year of Performance.” And while the sustainability industry did enhance its focus on the performance of buildings and occupants using data analysis and verification with tools such as LEEDv4.1, Arc Essentials, and WELL Performance Testing, almost no one could have predicted what was to come. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on global economics and healthcare, small businesses, and a myriad of other ill-prepared systems. This black swan event highlighted the relationship of human health and wellbeing to social inequity and environmental injustices.
With the initial shock of the pandemic behind us, there is little we could add to what has already been said about 2020, and it is time to look to the future; something that we, and our colleagues in the sustainability field, have always done. Sustainability is interdisciplinary by nature. Referencing the globally recognized United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as the pinnacle example of sustainability’s mosaic, we cannot achieve one goal without the advancement of another. If there is one glimmer of hope to be plucked out from the tumultuous year gone, it would be the growing the understanding of the interconnectedness of all systems. Education, healthcare, economics, social justice, and environmental prosperity are co-dependent.
Historically, many have associated sustainability with environmental attributes only. And while the environment holds a substantial position, as previously mentioned, sustainability is so much more. This awareness of the true meaning of sustainability was a revelation for most individuals as well as businesses this past year and is why the team at 3R is choosing to dub 2021: “The Year of Sustainability Awareness”. Leading organizations of the sustainability field have longed for this understanding and jumped on the opportunity to increase awareness and safety when the world needed it most. To name a few:
Arc, an affiliate of the U.S Green Building Council, launched Arc Re-Entry to assist building owners and facility managers appropriately respond to the ripple effects caused by COVID-19. Arc Re-Entry provides tools to benchmark policies, procedures and building performance data, including indoor air quality and particulate matter.
The first organization to put Arc Re-Entry into action, the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) promotes healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play. As an early adopter and advocate for sustainability awareness, the GSA convened a working group of sustainability professionals, facility managers, engineers and consultants to design the “Ready to Play” Playbook for reopening facilities and arenas with the health and safety of occupants as the highest priority.
Informed by the innovative WELL Building Standard, over 600 experts from the Task Force on COVID-19 produced the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management to help prepare buildings and organizations protect their people. Beyond the moment, achieving WELL Health-Safety feeds into an organization’s WELL certification, as well as parallels LEED Safety First pilot credits, to assist with building re-entry.
Even though these certifications and guidebooks were born out of immediate necessity, they are here to stay. Incorporating input from initial users, these tools are continuing to evolve to meet the changing needs of unique organizations that are more aware than ever of the role they play in employee health and wellbeing, communities, and local economies.
It is no incident that each of these tools utilize real-time verified performance, emphasize the same or similar concepts, as well as provide options for integration with one another. They are setting the tone for what every industry and person should value to cultivate a sustainable world; awareness of actual performance over historical alone, collaboration over competition, a thirst for feedback, and potentially the most important, a desire to improve— together.