1240x480_3401 S. La Cienega Blvd_0002.jpg

Promoting The Wellness Factor at RETCON

  • 25 Apr 2023
  • by
  • Tom Reller
Lendlease’s Director of Sustainability for Construction, Amanda Kaminsky, is an advocate for Wellness in construction… and loves talking about it! She recently participated in a panel at The Real Estate Technology Conference, better known as RETCON, in Brooklyn New York.

Entitled, ‘The Wellness Factor: Meeting Must-Have Expectations for Health & Wellbeing’, panelists discussed how, ‘Recent years have seen a boom in the importance of health and wellness in all aspects of life. For better or worse, human beings spend 90% of their lives inside real estate. The industry is an essential part of peoples’ livelihoods and not only is there a duty to help improve peoples’ lives, but it’s also becoming necessary by tenant, resident and occupier expectations. Technology can help real estate owners and operators to improve everything from air quality to water quality and physical health and activity. This panel explored how technology can help meet the wellness needs and expectations of human beings in 2023.’

Amanda oversees sustainable construction across the Lendlease portfolio in the US, and when asked what Wellness means to Lendlease, said, “We take a whole-system approach to wellness from project inception through the design-build process to eventual occupancy and operation, addressing social and environmental wellbeing in each phase.”

Lendlease's careful planning and coordination helps ensure that: 

  1. In procurement, we buy materials and equipment that improve the wellbeing of those sourcing, making, installing, using, and recycling these products.
  2. Throughout the construction process, the health and safety of our teams is protected and supported and the local community is respected and engaged. 
  3. In the completed places we create, our tenants and surrounding communities can thrive.

On the topic of residents’ wellness, the panelists discussed what happens behind the scenes, such as how air flows through spaces and how characteristics of that air can make people feel better or worse.  This means builders and owners need to be mindful of air quality, humidity, air changes per hour, carbon dioxide levels, and being able to monitor and react accordingly. Also, balancing the ventilation rates that locally affect wellbeing of tenants, with the fan energy needed for that ventilation and its resulting energy use/climate impact, is an important consideration for how wellness can be impacted at various scales.

In discussing improvements to environmental health, Amanda described one new technology that provides a solution to a building’s CO2 emissions: “We recently visited a new carbon capture technology installation in Manhattan. An existing residential building was continuing to use an old gas combustion boiler, but the owners allocated a section of the building’s parking garage to a system that captures the boiler’s CO2 from the flue and sends it to a local concrete block maker that is sequestering the CO2 in its block. Residential buildings are big users of gas heating systems, so this is one means of reducing the city’s emissions and climate impacts.”

Speaking of building retrofits for improved wellness, Amanda noted that there is a particular challenge and opportunity we currently have in retrofitting older building stock. “Our cities have a lot of underutilized office space. We can convert this to residential, but the increasingly deeper floor plates typical of post-World War II office buildings make this transition challenging. More natural light is desired in residences, and New York City requires legal bedrooms to have at least one operable window. One recent office-to-residential conversion in Lower Manhattan solved for this by cutting a hole into the center of the building to increase access to light and air, and then reallocated the removed central volume to the top of the building, which improved the financial outcomes too.”

In recent years, building certifications have become more than just plaques and awards, with certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system or Fitwel becoming necessary drivers of change in ESG. “Within LEED (a certification system for healthier, more efficient, lower carbon buildings) and Fitwell (a certification system also committed to building health) there are many drivers that nurture wellness, like siting development near mass transit (easy in NYC!) contributing to more active lifestyles. LEED also includes credits for selection and management of building materials and systems that that are healthier for the supply chain, our installers, our tenants, and the environment.” Amanda noted also that she and a few colleagues have recently become Certified Passive House Tradespeople, and while the Passive House performance standard/certification dramatically reduces energy demand, it is also just as often sought for the improved ventilation, filtered air, and thermal comfort that results in places people want to spend time in.

Summarizing her views, Amanda suggested that builders take a holistic approach. “Take a holistic view of what wellness is and what else it can be from an individual, social, and environmental standpoint. Talk with the communities involved to understand what affects wellbeing, keep challenging your supply chains to be transparent, and collaborate on consistent improvements to the health of materials and equipment you buy.”