Improving Health Through the Built Environment

Building Health Initiative logo
The Northern California chapter of the USGBC launches its Building Health Initiative.

There is always a lot of buzz about “green” design and construction, but you don’t hear as much about “healthy” design and construction. The Northern California chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is promoting healthier design and construction via their Building Health Initiative. The Building Health Initiative will promote the idea that “health and wellness are vital components of sustainability and green building.” The initiative will seek to expand the sustainability conversation to frame green as a health issue, educate

about the health impacts a built environment can have, and garner awareness of healthy building within the industry. The initiative is integrating a number of diverse stakeholders from a variety of sectors to promote health and wellness and create a demand for healthy buildings. Industry partners involved in the initiative include Google, Genentech, and Kaiser Permanente. Building materials companies have also joined, pledging to produce safer products.

Health is currently a top subject in the national discussion. People spend a majority of their lives in the built environment, so it would follow that the buildings in which we live and work can have a great impact on health. Threats to health in buildings may include “arsenic-laced wood, formaldehyde, PVC, and paints with bisphenol A.” In addition to discussing safer materials, the USGBC will lobby for developments that create healthier lifestyles with better transit, more grocery stores (to avoid “food deserts”), and neighborhoods that encourage walking and a less sedentary lifestyle.

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