By H. Glenn Manning PE, Principal, Quandel Construction Group, Inc.
What does the “built environment” have to do with the health and well-being of a community?
According to Urban Land Institute (www.uli.org), it is a significant and often unrecognized influencer. In fact, the built environment—the physical infrastructure in a community as opposed to the natural environment—is critical to a region’s economic health, physical health, workforce health, productivity, and sustainability.
“I think the builders, urban planners, architects, and transportation leaders are health professionals. They don’t think of themselves as white coat folks; but I’m going to assert that they have more impact on the health of Americans than the people sitting in the hospital waiting for the people to come through the door,” says Dr. Richard Jackson, UCLA School of Public Health.
When we sit at the planning table with a team of architects, engineers, construction professionals, subcontractors, and community leaders—and view our work through Dr. Jackson’s lens, it unlocks tremendous value and potential for communities. The return on investment with construction projects far exceeds square foot metrics or operational costs over the lifetime of a building—it really carries an opportunity to foster better health everywhere we build.
As construction managers and builders, we pay close attention to the environment we’re asked to build in. Neuroscience and psychology both feature studies of design and the built environment—understanding how and why certain buildings evoke emotions that might help us heal, learn, and even be happier.
“To be sick and dealing with cancer issues in a building that is not user friendly is your worst nightmare,” says Marilyn Naiman in “A Cure for Hospital Design,” The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2014. In response, new wayfinding initiatives are being developed to help patients feel welcome and less stressed as they arrive and navigate the hospital hallways. After decades of renovations and additions to healthcare facilities, design-build teams now understand that clearly marked and easily accessible elevator banks, for example, do have an effect on patient experience.
The materials we build with, the construction professionals on-site, the waste recycling process, the trucks we drive, our 132-year history and company DNA, even our support of local civic and non-profit organizations are all examples of what we and our project partners can contribute to a healthier, sustainable community.
Thinking about construction’s impact on community health becomes more apparent when you’re building healthcare facilities. Our footprint spans more than three decades and includes familiar names such as Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewistown Hospital, Frederick Memorial Hospital, Moses Taylor Hospital, Pottsville Hospital, and PinnacleHealth.
We have performed 88 successful healthcare projects valued at more than $400 million. Respecting the environments that we build in, we balance our work in the midst of healthcare service delivery, highly sensitive information, and critical, life-supporting emergency room and operating room demands. Infection control and the safety of staff, patients, and visitors are just a few complex components of healthcare construction.
We also know that the built environment of our public schools and higher ed campuses contributes to the intellectual health of a region. As the builder of over 100 higher education projects, over many decades, our work includes assignments at Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, as well as projects at Bloomsburg University, Kutztown University, Penn State University, East Stroudsburg, Dickinson College, and University of Scranton. Well-designed and constructed energy-efficient buildings enhance learning and add tremendous workforce competitiveness and vitality to a community.
On every project, how we manage our material resources and our construction waste has a lasting impact on community health. Quandel has achieved a 40% post-construction waste recycling standard. We have built more than 40 LEED-Certified projects with 28 professionals that are LEED Accredited, and 59 employees who are certified by the American Society of Healthcare Engineering.
With nearly 18% of the U.S. GDP consumed by healthcare costs, the manner in which our clients’ facilities are planned and built matters a great deal. Even minor adjustments to the built environment can affect change. Adding public and soft spaces between work and home invites walkability and balance, an important factor in community health.
An equally important long-term benefit of construction is its value to a region’s economic health. One of the strongest signs of a healthy community is an uptick in construction projects, which indicates a soon-to-follow increase in jobs and services. For example, on the Danville wastewater treatment plant, Quandel and its subcontractors employed nearly 100 local and regional tradesmen. In our three-state footprint, we have strengthened the built environment with over 23 million square feet of quality improvements.
Working together across industries, we’re proud that our buildings contribute to a stronger, healthier, more sustainable community. We will continue to bring “healthy places” into every construction conversation, economic development meeting, and project.
H. Glenn (Bub) Manning PE is Principal of Quandel Construction Group Inc., a construction and construction management firm headquartered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices across the Mid-Atlantic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the company on Twitter at @QuandelBuilds.
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