“Human sustainability and environmental sustainability are not separate”

In this interview we hear how Dr Whitney Gray has applied her background in public health to the area of sustainability and in particular green building.

Working for the International Well-Building Institute, Dr Gray has been exploring solutions to human mental and physical health problems created by the build environment. Dr Gray emphasises how important using intelligent urban planning to prevent the issues from happening in the first place is always preferable to treating them once they have reared their head.

Gray discusses how the vilification of buildings in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis of the mid-seventies caused buildings to shrink and living spaces to become more cramped to save energy. This ultimately contributing to what we now describe as sick building syndrome. She explains how people can spend up to 90% of their time indoors and that our own health and wellbeing are inextricably linked to how we interact with these spaces.

When trying to win over stakeholders to more sustainable practices, Dr Gray stresses that you can’t take a one size fits all attitude. You can have extremely varied personalities, who can all have different attitudes and motivations. You need to fit the appropriate data to show that transforming your work space positively is a long-term investment into the health and well-being of your workforce. The employees are your key asset, with the amount of time spent indoors and the proven links between productivity, health and quality of workplace, it makes sense to invest in them both from a financial and ethical standpoint.