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Building Selection

For building interiors, a variety of physical building characteristics and operations policies should be evaluated for compliance with and support of the spaces’ health and wellness goals.


When evaluating potential sites, inquire whether basic environmental pathogen testing has been performed. This might include air quality testing for VOCs and particulates, and water quality testing for turbidity and coliforms, among others. An understanding of the exterior noise intrusion is also beneficial. Requesting copies or evidence of lead, asbestos, and PCB testing and abatement is advisable in buildings of a certain age. For buildings of all ages, understanding whether envelope commissioning has been carried out will provide information on envelope surety against unwanted air or pest infiltration.


Inquire as to the general capabilities of the system(s) present in the building. Does the building have mechanical or natural ventilation? If mechanical, what filtration systems are in place, and is ventilation provision separated from heating and cooling? Understand the level of outside air provided as well as the type of system and its benefits or limitations for comfort.

Lighting and Electrical

Understand the extent of penetration of daylight into the floorplate, and how glare and heat gain are controlled. If there are building standards for light fixtures or lamps, evaluate them for their ability to support circadian photoentrainment and accurate color rendering.

Common Areas and Separation

Keeping pollutants on the exterior of the building will depend in part on the entryway system—look for entryway mats and grilles to minimize pathogen infiltration. Vestibules can help with pollutant infiltration as well and can help to maintain thermal comfort in many climates. Evaluate whether the building is fully accessible, and whether it provides the fitness center, active transit support, exterior active design, accessible and attractive stair and circulation spaces, and other desired amenities for occupant well-being. Finally, understand the separation between your space and other tenant or common spaces for pathogen and acoustic control.

Policies and Maintenance

Investigate the policies and maintenance procedures employed by the management and operations teams. What policies are in place to control construction pollution, and gases and particulate from idling vehicles or combustions sources inside or adjacent to the building? This can include areas where smoking is permitted, but also combustion-based building equipment. Inquire as to how often inspections or testing are carried out for microbes, mold, pests, legionella control, and air and water filtration media—and whether reports of these inspections are regularly made available to occupants. Also develop an understanding of the cleaning procedures, frequency, and types of chemicals used in and around the site.

See EPA's "Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure" for more information.

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Did You Know?

The U.S. generated approximately 251 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2012. Almost 87 million tons were recycled and composted, which represents a 34.5% recycling rate. Solid waste generated per capita is the lowest since the 1980s. This is a 3 percent increase in the tons recycled.

Source: US EPA, Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012opens in new window.

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Case Study

Sense of Place

Skylight and Sculpture

What makes a workplace special? What fosters a sense of attachment, engagement and identity? These are the kinds of questions that underlie the sense of place. The workplace is increasingly seen as a “brand” that conveys not only a place, but also the mission and values of the organization. The GSA workplace program combines branding and sense of place with sustainable approaches to create special places imbued with meaning and purpose.

View Case Study