A transition has been taking place in the green building office world over the past few years. Companies are not just building buildings that are better for our environment overall—they are actually building offices that are better for their employees.
Many companies have realized that not only does their space need to be environmentally friendly, but it also needs to keep workers happy and healthy to increase productivity. For example, McKesson in Richmond, Virginia, took strides to implement WELL Building Certification and focus on wellness for its employees. WELL believes that buildings should be developed with people’s health and wellness at the center of design.
So what does this shift in focus mean for all office spaces? Consider the effect of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in office buildings on employee health, well-being and productivity. Healthy buildings do more than mitigate our impact on the environment—they can have social and emotional effects as well. Studies have shown that employees in buildings with adverse health conditions are absent more often, lose more work hours and are less productive than employees without these conditions.In some studies, there have been 11 percent gains in productivity from improved ventilation and 23 percent gains in productivity from improved lighting design.
Having healthy buildings can make a huge difference. My friend Anne recently was fortunate enough to move to a new office space. Her company left a relatively old, unhealthy building and has relocated to a much newer, LEED-certified building. She shared with me some of her reactions to moving into a more wellness-focused space, giving us a personal look into how healthy buildings can really improve daily work life for us all.
In your previous building, what was noticeably unhealthy to you during a workday? The air quality was definitely subpar—the dust that accumulated and the allergens we all noticed inside were all frustrating. In addition, I think there were questions about the cleanliness of spaces based on their age. But as an employee, you don’t have a lot of options!
Were you ever worried the IEQ could have longterm negative impacts on your health? I think I was conscious of how dust and mold might be impacting me every day, but it was easy to blame that on my allergies or my problems. But recognizing how a work space can exacerbate those problems—and that it isn’t OK—was definitely a shift that resulted when I had access to a nicer, high-quality space.
What does your new building have that has made your workday seem better? Improvements in technology, better spaces for meetings and group work, and even higher-quality materials in the furniture all result in positive impacts on work. It feels like the space is designed to be productive—not that it just happened to be occupied by a business. The space also has a great employee kitchen, privacy rooms for breastfeeding or other personal needs and a fitness center. It would be easy to call these things perks, but they are important parts of having healthy employees.
Are there things you think we take for granted, but are actually very important to improving productivity in the workplace? Designing spaces where groups can work, I think, makes a difference.
Do you believe that your new space will directly impact your workday mentality? Absolutely, the space is now an easy and comfortable part of my day-to-day. That it isn’t a stressor already helps!
We saw at Greenbuild this past week that the health and wellness of workers is becoming a larger focus across the board—there was an entire section of the Expo Hall floor dedicated to health and wellness. Not only can it help your employees feel better, it can serve as a competitive asset for companies. We heard Rick Fedrizzi say, “We have more to do to extend the focus from inside our buildings to inside our bodies.” A report released during Greenbuild last week shows that employees who work in certified green buildings have higher sleep quality scores — and who doesn’t want better sleep just by going to work every day?
“At their best, our buildings and communities are powerful promoters of health and well-being. At their worst, they contribute to some of the key public health concerns of modern society, from asthma to cancer to obesity.” —Mahesh Ramanujam
In the design world, we have seen a movement away from static images and toward motion. It used to be enough to create supporting, still graphics to tell your brand’s story and express your mission. But that isn’t the case anymore. Designers are creating logos, but instead of creating flat images, they are looking ahead to how it will move, what the GIF will look like, how people will feel when they see it.
How will people feel? Yep, that’s right. Using motion and animation means brands can really tap into the emotions behind design. StoryCorps is a great example of an organization that really believes in this movement. They have a mission to share stories, with the hope that more connections will be made between people. They focus on taking narratives, putting a voice to them and then visually showing the narrative as well.
So how does animation help tell your story? With the help of movement, companies can create a full narrative from start to finish. People love stories, and watching a story can be extremely moving. Companies can also focus on what their audience hears. So not only can a company create a powerful visual narrative for its audience, but it also has the ability to pair it with a voice that resonates with their viewers. People feel connected watching motion graphics and hearing a narrative.
A really fantastic example of this is TedEd. They have a growing library of original animated videos that are geared toward students around the world. The idea is that really great ideas are being shared, but they aren’t reaching everyone that they could be reaching. These videos are created to spark curiosity, foster collaboration and help people learn. They cover all different styles, from simple, one-color animations to more in-depth, collaged animations.
If you work with a company that really depends on your followers and supporters, it has become inadequate to simply speak your mission. People want to see it, they want to share it, they want to hear it.
At USGBC, we feel very strongly about this new design trend, and try to implement it every chance we get. We started to get some of the same questions from our followers over and over again. Why respond with a stat and a quote, when we can show them an answer instead? When they asked, “What is green building?” we showed them. When they asked, “What does LEED have to do with homes?” we showed them. This connection for our followers has been a great tool to engage and empower our supporters.
Stay connected to our YouTube channel to see questions and topics animated!
In the design world, videos are super trendy right now. They are everywhere. They are in your Instagram feed, on your favorite brand’s website and in blog posts. We want to try to implement high-quality videos wherever we can. Why? Because they are relatable. Seeing a video creates an instant connection with your viewer/audience—and that’s important when you want them to believe your mission. So what really goes into shooting a video in-house?
Step 1: Ideas and brainstorming. The first step is figuring out your end goal. Look around and find examples—visualizing what you want makes it easier to execute.
Step 2: Storyboard it out. I’m a huge believer in mockups, sketches and storyboards. Doing this before you get started on the actual project allows for mistakes, realizations and edits.
Step 3: Test shoot. I am also a huge believer in testing out your idea before you get too deep into the project. For this particular project, we did a test shoot for an hour to try out a couple ideas. It allowed me to actually edit some things within the project, and raised a few questions I needed to bring to IT about our final video product. Without the test shoot, we might have wasted some precious shooting time.
Step 4: Schedule your shoot. This means scheduling your space and all your actors, as well as checking out your equipment. For this project, our actors were really just hand models. But we had to make sure they were both willing to participate and available when we wanted to shoot.
Step 5: Prepare. I can’t stress enough how prepared you should be going into the shoot day. For this shoot, I made a detailed outline of each scene that listed props, actors, timing, possible issues, opportunities, etc. And I stuck to the schedule hard-core. The worst feeling is getting into your shoot and realizing you have forgotten something. Make lists, and make sure the day before the shoot that everything you need is available and ready. Also—charge all the batteries you may need. There’s nothing worse than a dead camera when you need to shoot.
Step 6: Shoot, thank your actors, edit. When you shoot, remember to take some photos of what your setup looks like. There’s always the chance you may need to go back and do some more takes at a later date, and it’s good to reference that photo for the next shoot. Don’t forget to thank your actors—or in this case, their hands.
One last pro tip—do what looks good! Don’t be too afraid to improvise during your shoot. There’s no need to stick to a rigid plan. Sometimes in your head, things seem natural, but watching it on camera makes you realize you need to rethink your concept. Try something out. The worst case is you end up with some B-roll footage you might use for something else!
Keep an eye on usgbc.org to see some of our video work finalized!
Staying on top of design trends can be daunting. There’s so much out there, and only some of it is relevant to my job as an in-house graphic designer. How do I avoid getting tunnel vision, and keep up with what’s new?
Among the sites I look at every day are these three top resources:
- Behance really lets me see what other artists and designers like me are creating. It’s a good peek into the world of designers who may be trying out new trends, testing out new apps or using new programs.
- The New York Times Art and Design section is a great mix of news and art put together in a very digestible way. Sometimes it’s nice to read a page of text instead of staring at a new color palette for the coming year.
- Since I have my degree in advertising design, Ad Age is a resource I grew to love in college. Now that my job involves way more than just advertising, it’s nice to check out their Creativity section. They cover new logo design, packaging released in the market and new campaign strategies to reach your audience.
Image collage from above-mentioned resources
I subscribe to Communication Arts magazine, and it provides not only visual inspiration, but some insight into the top trends in design. They focus on award-winning projects, typography that stands out and agencies that are up-and-coming. Also, they profile artists, designers, photographers and agencies. I get this magazine in the mail because…well, I think getting magazines in the mail is the best. But you can also subscribe online.
Local design news is different than general design news. Reading articles about big New York ad agencies who are hitting home runs with photo shoots and large-scale campaigns can be overwhelming—and hard to relate to. It’s refreshing to see what local artists are doing and how they apply design in a more relatable context. My go-to for local design “newspiration” (yep, news + inspiration is a word) is #aCreativeDC. They take the time to curate work from lots of local creative communities in the Washington, D.C. area, which means what you are seeing is diverse—and always fresh! Not only do they have a web presence, they also host in-person events that give you a chance to meet other creatives.
I’m also a member of the DC AIGA design community, which is an awesome resource for local events to meet other designers and artists. I also follow Creative Mornings DC, which hosts a free monthly breakfast series for the creative community. They celebrate D.C.’s creative talent and also promote an open space to connect with like-minded individuals. Both of these local resources are a great way to meet people IRL (“in real life”) who can provide info and ideas about upcoming trends.
Everyone: Meet Ashley.
Ashley is one of our fearless leaders on the Marketing team here at USGBC. She tackles project management, marketing strategy, branding ideas and communications decisions on a daily basis—no biggie! Ashley is constantly supporting our innovative Studio team, and is a key player in our marketing pursuits.
10 Questions for Ashley:
- Favorite city to visit? Tel Aviv
- Describe your role on the USGBC Marketing Team. In a nutshell, I’m here to make sure the marketing and communications function with the rest of the organization.
- If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be? Jackson. Performing both as Johnny Cash and June Carter.
- How do you get to work every day? On foot.
- Who inspires you? My five-year-old.
- Best movie: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
- Celebrity you’d like to meet: Leo, obviously!
- Three things you’d take to a deserted island: Do family members count as objects? If not, my Nespresso machine, Kindle and sunglasses.
- If you had one extra hour of free time every day, how would you use it? Spending it with my family.
- What’s the best part of working at USGBC? I love the variety. Every day is different—which means I’m always learning. Plus, I get to interact with such a talented group of professionals. I’m a lucky gal!
Our innovative Studio team comprises marketing strategists, digital analysts, designers and developers. This supergroup is responsible for making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way while maintaining our standards of sustainability. The only way we can accomplish this is through collaboration. Glad you guys took the time to meet Ashley—stay tuned to meet the rest of our talented team members!
Everyone: Meet Nora.
As a member of our team, Nora is partially responsible for our main goal: making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way, while maintaining our standards of sustainability. No pressure, right? Nora tackles our content creation head first on a daily basis. She is responsible for managing our digital marketing content across many platforms, ranging from websites to emails, from blog posts to Instagram videos, and from online advertising to content campaigns. Without her, our message would be lost!
10 questions with Nora
- Where were you born? Princeton, New Jersey
- Favorite city to visit? Any city I haven’t been to—I love exploring new places!
- Describe your role on the USGBC Marketing Team. As USGBC’s digital marketing manager, I have the opportunity to develop and oversee digital marketing strategies to increase USGBC’s customer engagement, raise brand awareness, acquire and nurture leads and drive revenue.
- Go-to karaoke song: “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree
- Zodiac sign: I am a perseverant Taurus.
- Favorite ice cream flavor: Chocolate Fudge Brownie by Ben & Jerry’s
- Best book you’ve read in the past year: Rising Strong by Brené Brown
- Favorite season: Springtime. I love the warmer weather, longer days with more daylight, and new life.
- Are you a morning person, or night owl? I have a newborn who is up at all hours, so these days I’m both—a morning person and a night owl.
- Favorite quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our innovative Studio team is comprised of marketing strategists, digital analysts, designers and developers. This supergroup is responsible for making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way while maintaining our standards of sustainability. The only way we can accomplish this is through collaboration. Glad you guys took the time to meet Nora—stay tuned to meet the rest of our talented team members!
What’s on your desk directly influences your work habits and creativity. What does your workspace look like? Are you neat or are you messy?
Our staff photographer and marketing project manager Ana Ka’ahanui has some creative and inspirational items she likes to keep at arm’s length. Check them out below!
- Yogi tea bags – While we are extremely fortunate to have coffee and tea provided in our staff kitchen, I keep a steady supply of Yogi Green Tea Super Antioxidant at my desk. I can prepare the tea hot or cold depending on my mood and the bonus is that each tea bag has an inspirational phrase attached.
- Tervis Cup – I love this brand because you can prepare hot and cold drinks in them. They come in all kinds of fun and funky styles. The colorful designs always brighten my day.
- Portable external hard drive – I deal with photo files every day and the portable drive allows me to exchange images and video clips easily with colleagues since email can be cumbersome.
- Push pins – Being a visual person, I love to tack up photo and video specs, things to do, reminders, important dates and numbers, project lists, etc.
- Happy knick-knacks – My Zen Dog statue puts me at ease when I need a moment of calm. Being from the Aloha State, I like to keep reminders of home on my desk, like my solar-powered Hula Girl. They always put a smile on my face, especially when the DC weather is not as perfect as it is in paradise.
Are there things you keep on your desk to help make your workflow successful? Don’t forget to check out our first #WOYD post, too!
USGBC has recently been focusing efforts on producing podcasts for all of you followers out there. We’re working extra hard to produce content that isn’t just focused on green building in general, but is really focused on the people behind our sustainability movement. I was able to take a minute to touch base with Rukesh Samarasekera who has been putting a lot of time and effort into our new podcast series: Changemakers@USGBC. Check out what he had to say below!
AH: Walk me through the steps of generating a podcast.
RS: At USGBC we have a multimedia team that talks through the vision for an individual podcast series. We want to make sure we’re clear on the overall intention so the team has a common understanding of why we’re creating it while giving individuals the autonomy to make it happen. Every series is different, but I can speak to the process of developing Changemakers@USGBC. It happened organically…I had an idea for a show, and was told to draft a proposal explaining the why, who, what, how, and when. Fortunately, we were looking to expand our multimedia to include podcasts, so the timing was just right. As a team we ideated and further refined the why, who, what, how, and when of the series.
AH: Why do we create them?
RS: We all have busy lives and podcasting allows you to listen on the go or while you’re doing something else. It doesn’t require your undivided attention. We often say, “Every story about green building is a story about people.” Changemakers@USGBC will go beyond the buildings and connect with the hearts and minds of the people behind the sustainability movement.
AH: What makes a good podcast?
RS: This is a tough one because everyone has their own definition of what’s “good.” I’m no podcasting pro but I can tell you what I like listening to. I like content that’s informs and inspires. I like it to be conversational. I like learning information that helps me make better life choices. If you could have at least two of these elements in a podcast I think it makes it good.
AH: What are some common mistakes when creating podcasts?
RS: We all make mistakes (and no experience is wasted if you learn from it) but instead of focusing on what not to do, here are seven things I try to do as much as possible:
- Build support. Whether you’re working within an organization or creating a podcast on your own, you alone are not enough.
- Test. Do you have enough battery power? Is all the equipment working? It’s always good to do a quick test.
- Give yourself time, and track it. I’m definitely working on this. I know how long the interview is (it’s right on the recording), but how long did it take to book the interview? How long did it take to prepare (background research, constructing questions, setting up)? How long did it take to edit? How could you streamline the process? There are always exceptions but by tracking your time and being aware of how you could be more efficient, you’ll master your technique.
- Plan. How many episodes are you going to release? How often? How many have you already recorded? Do you know who you would like to talk to? I’m not the best planner but this experience is making me think like one.
- Make the person (or people) you’re talking to feel comfortable. Let him/her know how much you appreciate their time, be kind, and open with general questions.
- Listen and allow the conversation to flow naturally. You may have a sheet of awesome questions, but you may not get to ask all of them. That’s okay. Pick a few you absolutely must ask. If you listen to what the person is actually saying you’ll be able to ask better questions and make the entire conversation more enjoyable.
- Be “on.” What does that actually mean? From the moment you say hello, your job is to be confident, enthusiastic, and present. If you’re not conducting the interview in person make sure you’re in a space that won’t distract you.
AH: Why not just write an article recapping events or quotes from people?
RS: The human voice is like a fingerprint, it is unique and a window into a person’s soul. Unlike an article, this platform not only allows us to talk about someone, but it allows them to express their own identity in a way print alone cannot.
I think that one of the best things Rukesh brought up is “I like content that’s informs and inspires.” At USGBC I believe we are striving to constantly create content that informs and inspires our viewers, followers, and listeners.
Tune in to #USGBC’s new #podcast series: #ChangemakersUSGBC; we go beyond just #buildings. New episodes will be posted weekly. We’d love to know what you think. Leave a comment below or use #ChangemakersUSGBC on social media.