Recently I represented the One Health Center in an exploratory meeting to build multidisciplinary collaborations across different sustainability efforts at the University of Florida (UF).
It was extremely eye-opening talking with other professionals at UF that promote, pursue, and strive for sustainability in their specific fields. Especially when these fields can be as far from One Health as construction management. Indeed, one participant was the Sustainable Building Coordinator at UF.
During the meeting, I realized that UF has more green building certifications than any other public higher education institution in the United States. There are many types of certifications that are related to the sustainability of buildings, usually with a focus on energy and water use efficiency and the use of sustainable construction material. However, two certifications stood out, and I decided to look more deeply into them.
The first one is the WELL Certificate. This certificate was particularly interesting because it goes beyond the physical structure of a building or its environmental impact to evaluate how it affects and shapes the lives of those working in it. For example, there are strict parameters on the air quality inside the building. Water should be clean and easily accessible to promote hydration and reduce waste from plastic bottles. Lighting should be efficient and plentiful, but natural light should be preferred to support circadian systems. Buildings must be designed to promote active living and offer quiet work environments and thermal comfort for all the users, independently of sex, size, or age.
In particular, learning more about this certification, I found that the strongest points of contact between Circular Health and this certification are the topics of Nourishment and Mind. Among other things, in order to meet the Nourishment standards, buildings need to provide comfortable eating spaces to encourage users to practice mindful eating, taking a break to eat a planned meal rather than snacking at their desks. This has positive impacts on people’s diets, helping to prevent chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. To support the users’ mental health, buildings need to provide easy access to natural elements, especially trees, that have proven positive effects on mental health and offer restorative spaces where users can relax during times of high stress and/or heavy workloads. The second certification is a sub-project of the LEED certification that aims to reduce the collisions between birds and windows. In order to achieve this goal, the University of Florida started the University of Florida Bird Window Collision Project, an online tool to monitor and report instances of birds colliding with buildings and windows to identify high priority buildings and areas (i.e. higher floors, sides near/away from trees). Besides the obvious goal to protect birds, reducing birds fatalities impacts both the local and global biodiversity with all the positive associated effects. It also protects human health since birds can carry diseases and people and domestic animals are more likely to get in contact with dead birds.
By Dr. Luca Mantegazza, Research Program Coordinator