Healing Charlotte Podcast: Kerry Kalish, Healthy Buildings TASC Force

In this episode, we meet Kerry Kalish. She is a Design Project Manager at ODA, an architecture firm here in Charlotte, North Carolina. She also manages the TASC(Tactful Approach to Sustainable Cleanliness) force which focuses on research and development for “Well Building” strategies. Kerry went to Architecture school at UNCC in 2004 and was fascinated back then about how architecture relates to humans. Now she is even more health conscious and aware of how spaces affect people due to having a child with asthma and ADHD. Prior to joining ODA, she worked for a forensic architecture firm where she was involved with more reactive work and fixing problems that already happened. She was interested in doing more proactive work from there. She joined ODA two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Her boss came to her with an idea to focus more on the healthy building movement. After some initial reading and research, Kerry realized how connected this movement was to her interest in college.

“I even thought it{Healthy Building Movement} was mostly germs and good clean air. In hindsight, I realized this is that neuroscience stuff, this is that same scientific stuff but also the psychology and how we’ve gotten so much more aware of mindfulness.”

There are a couple of certifications including Fit Wel and Well Standard. This movement started about 7 years ago but gained momentum due to the pandemic. These certifications include sections on; fitness and mind, light(that could cause glare and headaches or lowered productivity), water cleanliness, and air to name a few. The standards also address vending machines, catering, and cafeteria requirements.

ODA created the TASC force to educate themselves as architects as well as contractors, developers, and decision makers who they were already connected with. They developed a newsletter to educate and help people see the importance of these standars as well as the return on investment. JLL created the “3-30-300 rule” that helps illustrate where to invest money. Every business, per year, per square foot spends $3 for utilities, $30 for rent, and $300 for payroll(insurance, PTO, sick time, etc). So in essence, Healthy Buildings protect and enhance the lives of people on the inside. The focus most recently has been on ventilation(better air, UV filters, higher quality filters), high touch areas(using surfaces that can be cleaned and bleached), and connection with nature(rooftop terraces, courtyards, and biophilic design). Some industries that are currently adopting these standards are hospitality, self-storage, and education to name a few. Where the Healthy Building Movement protects the people on the inside, where as the Sustainable Movement which strives to not damage, create minimal damage, or regenerate the environment outside of the building. In the future, the TASC force may move beyond Healthy Buildings and look at technology of materials or regenerative design.

“You can really mitigate those if you reduce your employees sick time or if you can improve their productivity. You are going to be able to balance that out more than you can by putting in some slightly more energy efficient light bulbs in your building.”

Kerry wants to heal Charlotte because her friends and family are here and wants her daughter to have a healthy experience. Kerry is inspired by Envision Charlotte; a group that is focused on creating a circular economy including regenerative design, composting, recycling and using underemployed folx to help. Self-care for Kerry includes an anti-inflammatory diet and being intentional with the food she ingests.

“I want to take care of the people around me. I’ve always wanted to do that to some extent. I’ve always wanted to give a positive to the community around me in some way, shape, or form.”

Visit the TASC force website and subscribe to the quarterly newsletter. Reach out to Kerry directly at kkalish@oda.us.com or tascforce@oda.us.com.