UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, January 2015

Sustainable Business Leaders Gather at UCSF to Reframe Green Building as a Health Issue

LogoThe Building Health Initiative, a cross-sector coalition of 45 companies and institutions including commercial building owners, technology giants, healthcare leaders, architects, engineering firms, product manufacturers, mission-driven nonprofits, and legal professionals committed to revolutionizing procurement strategies, fostering healthier communities, and ultimately, reframing green building as a public health issue, held its inaugural Building Health Forum December 11th at UCSF. Despite the big storm that day, over 150 participants gathered together to hear a range of experts speak about the connection between green building and good health, including Arlene Blum, Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute, Solange Gould, Senior Research Associate, Public Health Institute Center for Climate Change and Health, Judy Levin, Pollution Prevention Director, Center for Environmental Health, and Debbie Raphael, Director, San Francisco Department of the Environment.  Topics addressed at the forum included:  removing flame retardants, climate change and health, and materials transparency.  Debbie Raphael, Director, San Francisco Department of Environment, commented, “The speakers embodied the idea of bringing the best science to the field of green building and health.  I left inspired to go back and explore all the opportunities we have to create a built environment that heals, not just houses, its occupants.” 

The Building Health Initiative’s owners and managers working group, including Adobe, CalPERS, Facebook, Genentech, Google, Kaiser Permanente, Troon Pacific, and UCSF, announced simple, impactful steps they are taking to foster healthier environments within their local and global projects. Rather then a standardized pledge, each member has made a unique commitment to use their collective market influence to create demand for new and innovative products that improve the health of the built environment.

Unveiled publicly for the first time, the group’s efforts include:

  • Requesting greater transparency from architects and building product manufacturers about the chemicals used in their products;
  • Utilizing their collective market influence to create demand for new and innovative products that improve the health of the built environment;
  • Recruiting and retaining the best workforce by providing healthy and productive workplaces; and
  • Increasing awareness of healthy environments in buildings.

“We’re excited to see so many prominent organizations come together to ask for transparency and better materials,” said Anthony Ravitz, real estate and workplace services green team lead at Google. “As an industry, the more we know about what’s in different products, the more informed choices we can make.”

“As a leading healthcare research university, UCSF was proud to sponsor this event and be a part of this initiative to increase awareness of healthy environments in buildings,” says Gail Lee, Sustainability Manager for UCSF’s campus and medical center.

Written by Green Impact, a sustainability consultant helping organizations make a greener impact.