Advancing Sustainability: Health, Equity and Resilience

Date Posted: 11.17.2016

Mithun recently joined with global thought leaders at the Greenbuild 2016 conference in Los Angeles to explore innovations and collectively advance sustainable design and building. We were impressed by three major themes spanning the diverse program of educational sessions, tours and workshops. First, green design practitioners are increasingly focusing on HEALTH and WELLNESS at the community and the personal scale, shifting design processes and informing a new set of performance benchmarks. There was also a call to action for green building to be a SOCIAL JUSTICE movementto restructure and “work with, not for” vulnerable populations in shaping communities. Additionally, the sustainable movement is scaling up to cities and infrastructure to respond more urgently to RESILIENCE challenges in response to climate change.

Aligned with its location, the event provided insight into California’s ambitious initiatives and successes in meeting climate goals while growing the economy, improving health and addressing social equity. California has had a strong economic recovery and the highest rate of job growth in the country while implementing the most ambitious climate change policies in the nation. Currently ahead of schedule in meeting its 2020 targets, newly approved legislation is targeting a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. California’s signature cap-and-trade program is providing 25% of its funds for projects benefitting disadvantaged communities, typically affordable housing near transit.

Sharing Thought Leadership

Mithun contributed to the rich dialogue with four educational sessions that highlight the broad range of sustainable projects and innovations underway at the firm:

Building Health and Equity through Design—There is strong evidence that the buildings and neighborhoods in which we live, work, learn, and play can impact many health outcomes. Mithun design partner Anne Torney joined with colleagues from USGBC, Enterprise Community Partners and Health Impact Project to discuss how the built environment affects health outcomes and share tools to “Promote Health through Community Development.”

Listening-driven Design—Dave Goldberg, Mithun president, joined San Francisco Zen Center leader Robert Thomas in a special session revealing how traditional Buddhist practice and mindfulness can inform a highly integrated, listening-driven design process. “Mindful Design” utilized case studies from the San Francisco Zen Center to explore inherent connections between mindfulness, community and sense of place.

Net Positive Energy Campus Design—This session shared “Innovations and Lessons Learned” from Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus, the first new university campus in the world to be built sustainably from the ground up, featuring full cycle water recycling, net positive energy production and zero waste operations. Mithun’s Debra Guenther joined with colleagues from the University’s Falk School of Sustainability and Interface Engineering to provide candid insights from this recently completed campus-scaled development, integrating buildings and infrastructure.

Achieving Rapid Urban Regeneration—We have entered a new era of city building with dynamic and disruptive growth creating challenges and opportunities for policy makers. Mithun principal Sandy Mendler facilitated a highly interactive “Policy Hackathon for Urban Regeneration in the Golden State” to explore how to bridge the gap between policy and design tools to more rapidly address climate and equity goals.

We are honored to be engaged in diverse housing, education, workplace and urban planning projects in California that are at the leading edge of sustainable design. To read more about Mithun’s expertise in and integrated approach to green design, click here.