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The Sustainable Workplace as Social Contract: Integrating a Quality Workplace into the Organization-Employee Social Contract

Podcast: 2008/7/11 - 26:27

Presenters: Judith Heerwagen, PhD & Vivian Loftness, FAIA.

Interviewer: Michael Crosbie, AIA






Vivian Loftness, FAIA, LEEDAP, is an internationally renowned researcher, author and educator in environmental design and sustainability, she has served on six National Academy of Science panels. Vivian Loftness received the 2002 National Educator Honor Award from the American Institute of Architecture Students and a 2003 recipient of the Sacred Tree Award from the US Green Building Council. Vivian Loftness has a Bachelors of Science and a Masters of Architecture from MIT is on the National Boards of the USGBC and AIA Communities by Design.

Judith Heerwagen is a psychologist trained in behavioral ecology which looks at how human behavior influences and is influenced by the physical and social environments. She has done research on the human factors of building and workplace design emphasizing how people adapt to and use new technologies and spaces. Dr. Heerwagen was a research faculty member at the University of Washington Department of Architecture where she continues to hold an affiliate appointment. She also served as a staff scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory At PNNL, she received a professional achievement award. In 2005 she was named an Environmental Champion by ASID.

New work patterns and changing demographics are having far reaching effects on workplace design. At the same time, the social contract of mutual expectations between organizations and employees, albeit still informal, is also changing. The old contract focused on job security and steady advancement in the firm. The new contract is about competency development, continuous learning, and work/life balance. Although the quality of the workplace itself is not normally thought of us part of the social contract, there are good reasons to believe it should be incorporated.

First, space has known links to individual and group productivity. Second, the physical environment has known effects on health and well being. And third, the workplace may be an increasingly important factor in attracting and retaining staff, especially highly qualified young workers who will be the next generation workforce.

Currently, however, the workplace is the domain of facilities, while the social contract is the province of human resources. As a result, the workplace is not leveraged as a central capacity building part of the organization. The speakers will present research that strongly supports the following environmental benefits that could be integrated into the social contract between employers and employees, as critical conditions for work effectiveness, individual development, learning, and motivation.

 -A healthy, comfortable, sustainable work environment with access to daylight and nature, excellent air quality, and personal control of ambient conditions.
-Environmental equity demonstrated by equitable access to technologies and spaces needed to work effectively and permission to use these.
-Work/life balance with access to affordable daycare and support for multiple work places and schedules.
-Amenities that promote the development of friendships and social networks including cafeterias with healthy food and outdoor seating.



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