‘5 Questions With’ Laura Steinbrink, President of Emerald Built Environments

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1. Why pursue LEED for office renovations?

Besides providing an opportunity to rally stakeholders in achieving an award – LEED certification – the Commercial Interiors (CI) rating system provides a framework for designing spaces that focus on health and wellness for your employees and ongoing operations with a nod to efficiency (cost and resource reduction). Absent pursuit of a LEED CI certification, simple design modifications might be missed, including concepts such as better lighting controls and ventilation in conference rooms.

2. Is there a LEED rating system for existing buildings?

LEED EB O+M (Existing Buildings Operation & Maintenance) is designed for buildings in service for more than 12 months, with less than 50% active construction or renovation. This rating system is performance-based, measuring energy, water, waste use/production on an annual basis, combined with survey data from occupants, policies that direct sustainable operations, and testing data for indoor air quality. This rating system is great for any organization that wants to start its journey to sustainable operations, or that has been doing so and wants to measure performance.

3. Do service professionals really need to care about our emissions profile?

Considering recent SEC proposed guidelines for emissions reporting as early as 2024, or global brands requiring their vendors to report emissions to them (so they can report their Scope 3), the answer is yes. Every business that has not started the process to measure and report their Scope 1 and 2 emissions is at risk.

4. My clients don’t ask me about sustainability or ESG, so why should I mention it? 

As business advisors, our goal is to stay ahead of trends and inform our clients of potential risks. Being passive to environmental sustainability and ESG topics is a risk – which can manifest in employee turnover or difficulty recruiting, failure to secure preferable finance terms, or losing deals to competitors. Asking your clients about their 2030 or 2050 emissions reductions goals – and advising them to take steps to form them if they have not – is being proactive.

5. Does Wellness at Work really matter?

Considering the Great Resignation, implementing wellness policies at work demonstrates businesses care about their employees. Consider ways to update HR manuals to include concepts such as:

  • Mental health resources, mental health breaks
  • Clauses encouraging employees to stay home and not work when sick
  • Providing more flexibility with one type of PTO, versus dividing sick and personal days from vacation days

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