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The Facility Manager's Oath: Do No Harm
First, do no harm. Facility managers aren’t physicians, but making a similar pledge might be in order. Your facilities are very likely causing harm to their occupants. It’s surely not your intention, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening on your watch.
Humans did not evolve to live indoors, sitting or standing in one spot, performing repetitive tasks. We did not evolve to spend our time away from natural sunlight. Beyond that disruption to our natural relationship with our surroundings, buildings often provide water infused with lead and other chemicals for drinking, and air polluted with biological and chemical contaminants to breathe. And more seemingly benign but also problematic are the conditions within facilities which can be detrimental with chronic exposure, such as poor acoustics management that can lead to hearing loss or impair cognitive function.
Major gross negligence threats to health and wellness are addressed by laws and codes. But addressing these persistent, nearly invisible threats falls to the facility manager to champion. They require facility managers to hold one truth above all others: human lives are intrinsically, individually valuable and irreplaceable. More than profit, more than status, each human life in the enterprise is its most valuable aspect. Which means every human deserves, at bare minimum, an environment which is not harming them. What occurs instead is the majority of us are made to cope as best we can with the facility’s shortfalls. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In this issue we cover the ways several major building performance systems are leveling up on human health as a response to the pandemic, and ways facility managers can address human health implications in building systems. I would also encourage facility managers to have programmatic conversations with the C-suite in pursuit of these health outcomes. For example, if the enterprise seeks to support circadian system health, creating outdoor work areas or allowing flex hours so people can enjoy the morning outdoors would be a powerful strategy.
As we have learned in this past pandemic year, many of the facilities which seemed so inevitable in our lives might actually be optional. It is my sincere hope that we will emerge from this emergency with a clearer sense of the purpose of the built environment and a clearer understanding that its first obligation is to human health.
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