Courtesy DIALOG

Resilience at Work: The Intersection of Equity, Climate, and Health

A Think Tank Panel hosted by DIALOG discussed the need for a multipronged response to COVID and the climate crisis.

“The pandemic was a bad thing, but it made us smarter,” said David D. Gonzales, principal, managing director, Avison Young, a commercial real estate company. This comment set the stage for a Think Tank discussion titled “Resilience at Work: The Intersection of Equity, Climate and Health,” on July 8 that was moderated by Metropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal.

Gonzales went on to say the pandemic had upended the commercial real estate market. “People in the high-tech industries are starting to dive back into real estate because they think it is priced right. Meanwhile medium sized companies are saying ‘We don’t need as much space,’ while smaller firms are taking more space. But the huge and underlying metric is simple: Is it safe?”

The pandemic made the business case for sustainable environments

Charles Marshall, engineer and Partner at Dialog

“It’s about safety and resilience together,” said Rajagopal. “It’s also connecting ideas to safety—individual mental and social health. How connected do people feel to each other?”

An interior designer on the panel argued for socially aware spaces that accommodate diverse populations. “It’s about social change,” said Cohen, partner, interior designer, DIALOG, the firm that hosted the event. “We look at spaces that support people from many backgrounds. An example is gender neutral bathrooms, which clients are demanding more and more.”

Another panelist, Jamie Qualk, vice president, building mechanical systems, WSP, said that the pandemic has increased the need for data to assess tenant and employee needs. “It’s really early days for artificial intelligence in the design and construction business,” he said. “Soon we will have control over useful data sets. In ten years, we’ll have more tools.”

Charles Marshall, partner, engineer, DIALOG, pointed to another positive outcome from COVID: “The pandemic made the business case for sustainable environments. For example, furniture vendors have been very responsive to low carbon manufacturing.”

In environmentally friendly northern California, Gonzales pointed to proactive laws that facilitate the transition from carbon to renewable energy. “In San Francisco they’ve instituted a policy to remove all gas from buildings,” he said. “Sustainability has moved from the last bullet point to the second bullet point.” Qualk echoed this idea: “The state is now requiring a carbon neutrality. In California we’re talking a lot about electrification. It’s coming to California and possibly elsewhere.”

Resilience and building longevity were on all panelists’ minds. Marshall cited his firm’s work on a hybrid wood tower comprised of wood, steel and concrete. “This experiment in tall wood construction will not only last a long time but help us move clients toward their goals of being carbon neutral by 2030.”

People sitting on an open stairwell of a central library, large windows on the right.
Courtesy DIALOG

The Think Tank discussions were held on July  8, 15, and 22. The conversations were presented in partnership with Corona Group, GROHE, and Trendway.

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