Wednesday, October 3, 2012 lost in my head again --By Lauren Campbell

I’ve been volunteering for the Office of Sustainability (OFS) at IUPUI for the past few weeks. I wanted to put myself out into the world of sustainability and thought that the OFS would greet a volunteer with open arms; I was right. Volunteering has put me in touch with other likeminded people who are working hard to see IUPUI and the Indianapolis community succeed in sustainable living. It is here that I get to talk to people, share ideas, and listen to their concerns surrounding environmentalism and sustainability. This is a place where I and others get to be curious about the environment and innovative ideas.

During one of the meetings I attended, discussion of new buildings being constructed on campus started. There were many questions about certain environmental  impacts, as well as what green measures were being taken surrounding the construction, operation, and maintenance of the new buildings. One woman asked a question regarding the construction design and human health.

“When a new building is designed for campus, does anyone ever think about where certain stairways, elevators, office rooms, etc., should be constructed so to maximize positive impact on human health? You know, so that humans are the farthest part away from the outdoor smoking area? Or, putting a stairway here will maximize human traffic so that people will use it and therefore burn calories they wouldn’t if riding an elevator? Things like this. Does anyone think about that?”

I was surprised by the question. I have never really thought of designing a building to suit the exercise/health benefits of people.

Someone also brought up LEED certification; discussing the advantages of having LEED experts on the job over average contractors and construction managers.

I've been busy studying for my LEED GA exam. I have been interested in LEED for a while and thought that becoming certified would provide an excellent learning opportunity as well as a deeper understanding of the LEED process. LEED credit paths do consider Indoor Environmental Quality with respect to chemicals, thermal comfort, and air quality and how that affects human health, happiness, and productivity. They would require the smoking area to be built at least 25ft from a door, with absolutely no ventilation uptake in the surrounding area. But LEED don’t really take into account designing a building to maximize human exercise; i.e. sustainable health design.

I think with the U.S’s current obesity epidemic, designing a building, home, or commercial property with the idea of burning the most calories would be interesting and beneficial. There would, of course, have to be alternative options for those who are not healthy enough to walk up stairs, but the amount of energy that could be saved by not installing as many elevators, escalators, and moving walkways could be substantial and help people live healthier lives. We are headed down a path of no return and with it comes rising health care costs, pharmaceutical dependency, and larger SES gaps. 

This woman got the gears running in my head.... I began zoning out and imagining a future world and what we had and will continue to evolve into...

Evolutionarily speaking, humans have become a dominant species because of our complex neurological development; our ability to solve complex problems. Throughout history we have been able to make catching food and finding shelter easier, so that we had more time to devote to social development and creating stuff, i.e. goods, art, music. Making it easier to satisfy basic needs and spending less energy to survive are why we had and still have the energy to create society and to begin collecting material things. It has been our determined focus since the dawning of man to make life easier.

However, the moment that woman posed that question, I realized we have recently reached a tipping point. We have made life too easy and now we've made it to our detrimental juncture. We lack exercise and have turned mushy. We create machines that pollute our land, air, and water and that eat our ozone layer. We cut down trees and endanger animals all for the sake of an easy life and material objects.

And more, we have become so accustomed to this ease, that when someone poses a question or suggests that we begin looking at other alternatives they are answered with a long-winded… I’ll try to find out…bureaucratic…no. 

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