15-Minute Video: Buildings, Health, and Environment

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15-Minute Video: Buildings, Health, and Environment

“We’re dating our buildings.”

While you may have not been aware of this relationship, Sara Neff, Senior Vice President, Sustainability at Kilroy Realty Corporation, makes it crystal clear in her TEDx Culver City Talk, Erected Dysfunction: Our Buildings Hurt Us, But They Don’t Have To. Uncovering how we all have active relationships with our buildings, Sara shows how our homes, offices, and schools are a massive unseen force that’s dragging down our health and productivity – and more importantly, what we can do to reverse the damage. Watch the TEDx Talk below:


This talk didn’t come out of nowhere. Sara took Kilroy Realty Corporation from having no sustainability program to being named the #1 publicly traded real estate company on sustainability in North America by GRESB, and under her leadership the company recently committed to becoming the first carbon neutral real estate company in North America by the end of 2020. Her sustainability leadership awards include Urban Land Institute 40 Under 40, San Francisco Business Times Woman of Influence, Bisnow Real Estate Power Woman, and more.


As Sara dives into in her TEDx Talk, on top of accounting for approximately 40% of U.S. carbon emissions, buildings are causing an estimated $225B annually in the U.S. in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs. Cars, comparatively, only account for 26% of U.S. emissions, thanks to policy and technology that rose out of heightened public awareness and consumer demand.

So how do we do the same for buildings?

With the same process: ask questions to encourage rising public awareness. If occupants aren’t asking for better buildings, they won’t get them. The path to widespread adoption of high performance buildings that restore our natural environment while improving human health begins with two simple questions that anyone can ask about any building:

1. What are the CO2 levels in this building? Somewhere around 550ppm?
2. What is the EnergyStar score of this building? Is it 75 or better?

If you’re wondering who to ask, start with the Human Resources Department in your office, the front desk of your child’s school, and the landlord for your apartment.

And if you’re worried that you’ll be bothering them, don’t. They’ll thank you. Landlords can charge more for rent in high performance buildings and better office air quality can be equivalent to an 8-point IQ bump, which pencils out to $300,000 in annual profit for a 100-person company. And the kicker? An air quality test costs less than a single employee sick day.

This will come as no surprise if you’ve seen Stok’s report on the Financial Case for High Performance Buildings, which calculates $3,395 in annual profit per employee (equivalent to $2.78M in annual profit for an 820-person company) due to improved productivity, retention, and health in high performance buildings.

So, let’s continue to raise public awareness of this issue (and clear solution). For those inside the high performance built environment world already, these questions are a great starting place for improving public awareness of the importance of this industry in everyday lives of the public and for starting to get ahead of the game by making sure tenants care about the spaces they’re in.

Check out Sara’s TEDx Talk for the full story. We’re proud to partner with such a bold leader in sustainability. Get in touch to continue the conversation about healthy, high performance buildings.