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USGBC Helps Cities and Communities Better Prepare for Pandemic Events

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released two new Safety First pilot credits as part of the LEED for Cities and Communities rating system. The new credits are designed to help local governments and development authorities better prepare for and respond to future pandemic events. The guidance includes strategies for planning, risk assessment and training, as well as evaluating equity implications and impacts to vulnerable communities. Between the increasing risks associated with climate change and the current public health crisis, the new LEED credits provide additional ways to integrate public health and social equity into sustainability and resilience efforts.

The new guidance is part of USGBC’s recovery strategy and reimagined vision that healthy people in healthy places is the fastest way to rebuild a healthy economy. Supporting public health has long been a goal of LEED and the current pandemic reinforces how resilience and sustainability can play a role in promoting practices that better support people.

“The key to a better future lies in our ability to create places that support human and environmental health,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC. “LEED-certified cities and communities are already moving in that direction and they understand that effective planning is critical to tracking performance and making improvements. The current pandemic is revealing new lessons every day and LEED’s Safety First pilot credits provide a roadmap for taking action and bringing a more integrated and inclusive approach to rebuilding a healthier economy.”

The Safety First: Pandemic Planning credit is intended to help cities and communities prepare for, control and mitigate the spread of disease during a pandemic that poses a high risk to people. The plan must include a task force representing diverse backgrounds that is responsible for evaluating possible impacts and advising decision makers on short-and long-term challenges. It must also identify risks and vulnerabilities to health by outlining historical, geographical, epidemiological and other factors, and assess preparedness. The plan evaluates healthcare system readiness, domestic response, incident management and other existing policies and procedures. Education and training for community partners and other stakeholders must also be included.

The Safety First: Social Equity in Pandemic Planning credit systematically considers equity implications across all phases of the pandemic preparedness, planning and response process. The local government or development authority must have a local equity officer in place and responsible for building equity into the structure of the emergency command and response system. The plan must also convene a Pandemic Community Advisory Group to gather input on an on-going basis and the group must reflect the demographic and socio-economic diversity of the city or community. Public communications, outreach and educational campaigns must also be included in order to share relevant information about the pandemic, public health and health care facilities available. Project teams are also encouraged to demonstrate how policy, procedures, infrastructure and facilities impact low income, vulnerable or at-risk groups.

USGBC continues to evaluate potential changes to LEED in light of the pandemic and will be convening green building leaders to further discuss opportunities at the virtual Healthy Economy Forum taking place Aug 4-5.

Image courtesy of USGBC

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