benchmarking diversity

Design standards key to benchmarking diversity

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Accessibility and inclusiveness are on the agenda for a pending update of the model green office lease that has become an entrenched standard in Canada’s commercial real estate sector. Responding to a question about benchmarking diversity at the recent Canadian release of 2017 Global Real Estate Sustainable Benchmark (GRESB) results, Michael Brooks, CEO of REALPAC, identified the green lease, now nearing its 10th anniversary, as a potential effective guide for both landlords and tenants.

He suggested the next version may reference Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification, a two-level rating system for commercial, institutional and multi-residential buildings. In addition to credible third-party verification from professionals trained in accessible design fundamentals, participating buildings get a detailed scorecard advising where and how improvements can be made.

Green lease drafters are also interested in University of Toronto’s inclusive design research. “It’s looking at ways to make buildings amenable and welcoming to people of different cultural backgrounds,” Brooks reported.

Health and well-being specialist Whitney Austin Gray, also speaking in conjunction with the GRESB results release, suggested property and facilities managers can embrace diversity through “canaries” who may have heightened health sensitivities and/or be among the approximately 2.5 per cent of people at either end of the height and weight spectrum. Accommodating their needs will almost invariably appeal to a broader range of building users.

She cited task lighting, which is an important visionary aid for cataract sufferers and simply a preference for many office workers with better eyesight. As a spinoff bonus, it can contribute to energy savings by reducing requirements for overhead lighting. Similarly, curb cuts to accommodate mobility devices benefit people pushing strollers or pulling rolling briefcases.

“Pay particular attention to the canaries. These are the people who actually have the secret for the rest of us,” asserted Gray, who is senior vice president at Delos Living LLC, the company that devised the WELL Building Standard. “When you design for the extremes, you benefit the means.”

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