Diversity: A business advantage, reposted from UpstateBusinessJournal.com

Diversity is a good thing. Vital Spaces is a woman-owned business. The principal of Vital Spaces, Angela Self, is on the board of CREW Upstate (Commercial Real Estate Women). This article touts the many benefits of a diverse workplace.

Note: This article originally appeared at Upstate Business Journal:

CREW Upstate’s mission is to influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women. More than 75 men and women are members.

Diversity: A business advantage
Best practices for gender equity and inclusion in commercial real estate

By Lisa Dwight, CREW Upstate President / DP3 Architects Director of Marketing

Not hiring a newly married woman because she might be planning a family; avoiding giving criticism or feedback to a woman for fear she might become emotional; commenting that women are naturally better at cleaning, shopping, or child care — these are examples of conscious and unconscious gender bias that exist not only in the Upstate but across the country.

Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Upstate is committed to advancing the achievements of women in our industry and our community. According to a study by CREW Network, detailed in the white paper, “Closing the Gap: Addressing Gender Bias and Other Barriers for Women in Commercial Real Estate,” women represent approximately 35 percent of the commercial real estate workforce in the United States. The study also revealed that in 2015, the industry median annual compensation for women was $115,000 compared to $150,000 for men — an average income gap of 23.3 percent. The Global Gender Gap Index released in October 2016 by the World Economic Forum ― a not-for-profit foundation for public-private cooperation ― predicted that worldwide gender parity in terms of employment opportunity and pay levels will not be achieved for 170 years.

These statistics reveal a startling underutilization of women and a need to place a larger emphasis on gender diversity. According to research by the Center for Talent Innovation, diversity is a critical factor in market growth. Companies whose teams are gender diverse show superior sales growth and high cash flow returns on investment. These effects are magnified at companies where women account for a majority of top management. Diverse teams are smarter and more creative. Inclusion brings mindsets and skill sets that drive innovation and analytical approaches. In addition, engagement with clients and employees is enhanced.

It is clear that including women on the team is a benefit for everyone involved. So how do we get there? Gender equity starts at the top, and management must commit to long-term positive change. Companies can implement programs that identify where gender bias is occurring, create goals for employee diversity, evaluate decisions through the lens of gender parity and inclusion, and encourage environments where every employee is valued and respected.

Some of the burden also falls on us. As women, we must find ways to be more comfortable with risk; seek out and build relationships with mentors; hone our negotiation skills for use in discussing compensation and promotion opportunities; and make ourselves subject matter experts, engaged leaders, and respected professionals. Like many things, gender equity may not be implemented or accepted easily. However, an investment in diversity can make our industry, and our community, stronger across the board.

Lisa M. Dwight is president of CREW Upstate and director of marketing for DP3 Architects Ltd. CREW Upstate was founded in 2010 with the mission of influencing the success of the commercial real estate industry by advancing the achievements of women. It has grown to 75 women.




Implement programs that support diversity.

Spell out business objectives as they relate to gender equity.

Be mindful of conscious and unconscious bias and encourage a more inclusive culture.

Adopt open, transparent, and competitive recruitment and advancement policies.

Make mentoring and sponsorship of women a priority.

Incentivize women to join professional organizations such as CREW Network that provide business networking, industry training, and leadership opportunities.


Become more comfortable with taking risks to generate new business.

Seek out and build a relationship with a mentor who can support and sponsor advancement in your career, or become a mentor to someone else.

Develop exceptional negotiation skills for use in discussing compensation and promotion opportunities.

Resist the urge to respond emotionally when confronted with bias or inequality. Document the situation and report it to your supervisor or HR.

Support one another, engage in professional organizations, and become involved.

Spring Invasion: Strategies to Reduce Pollen in Your Home Sweet Home

It’s that time of year … Allergy Season.

eliminate pollen from your homeSome of us dread it and for good reason: 67 million people in the U.S. suffer from allergies and our abundant outdoor beauty here in the Upcountry means dealing with loads of it. Year after year the Carolinas rank as some of the worst places for allergy sufferers and if you think you escape pollen when you enter your home, then think again. Allergy symptoms are barely alleviated inside residential structures for most, but I say your home can be a refuge if you plan to keep the outdoors at bay.

Here are some questions and answers to help you reduce pollen in your home.

Q: How do I clean the yellow film off my outdoor living areas without contributing to my spring allergies?

A: Let’s back up. Did you know the yellow coating produced by pine trees is not a significant allergy trigger? It’s actually the pollens created by grasses and non-pine trees, so your first line of defense is your outdoor area. Keep grass low and discourage growth of weeds, as they are the most prolific producers of allergenic pollen.

Q: How can I keep pollen out of my home?

A: The best way is to implement simple consistent habits: wear a hat outdoors, take your shoes and clothes off at the door or mud room (if possible), put your clothes into the washer immediately and then take a shower and wash your hair. Remember, if you go to bed with pollen on your body or in your hair, you will spread the pollen in your bedroom. Building Biologists are always concerned about the bedroom first since your body is not only in healing mode while sleeping, but also more susceptible to all toxins.

Q: Are there other ways my home can help me get through the spring?

A: Regularly change your HVAC filters and use the highest MERV rating your system can handle. Clean dust from things in your home using damp cloths. Vacuum using a true HEPA filter equipped vacuum cleaner and invest in whole house or individual room air purification. And, don’t forget about your furry friend! Allergens get trapped in pet hair so be sure to bathe your pets often.

That’s all for now, friend. If pollen gives you a hard time, you have my sympathy. Don’t just suffer! Take the steps mentioned in this post to minimize your exposure to pollen within your home.

Office Renovation Project with Jaw-Dropping Results (Before & After)

We’ll get to the details and photos from our latest office renovation project.

(If you just can’t wait to see the results, watch this video slideshow of the results!

But first, let’s clue you in on a little “secret.” Well, maybe it’s not a secret. But you may not have known it already. Are you sitting down? Here it is…

Vital Spaces can provide project management for commercial and residential projects.


Okay, maybe it is kind of a secret. We post most often about several topics we really feel have life-changing potential: reducing exposure toxins, managing electromagnetic interference, gaining optimal health, and more. But did you know our Founder + Principal Angela Self is a licensed builder? Yep. There’s a fairly extensive body of knowledge and experience that underpins our work as a building biology company. It just so happens that this unique skill set makes Vital Spaces an ideal partner to provide intelligent, health-optimized project management for commercial and residential remodeling projects. Our latest office renovation project was a joy, and we are excited to share the results with you.

Here’s Our Latest Commercial Renovation Project

“Extreme Makeover-worthy” is how eTextile Communications labels our most recent and exciting office renovation project for a textile company, Greenwood Mills, Inc. Here’s their full post:

BACK TO THE FUTURE:Greenwood Mills returns ‘home’ to collaborative, healthier HQFor a number of Greenwood Mills…

Posted by ETC – etextilecommunications.com on Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why did we love this office renovation project so much?

Many aspects were great but we will pare it down to the top five.

1) The Transformation

And it was … quite a transformation. Transformations always seem magical, and this one was all that and more. As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words.

Here are some photos from BEFORE the office renovation project:
And here are a few photos from AFTER the office renovation project:

2) The Beauty

Wow, is this space ever gorgeous! It’s an open floor plan with lots of glass, beautiful refinished concrete floors, specialty lighting, a “Glam” kitchen, modern but comfortable furniture, and artwork/accessories to make you feel “At Home At Work.”

Gray was our base shade on walls complemented with luxurious shades of blue and green. We used high-impact tile in the kitchen and restrooms and brought in primarily new modern desking but accented with some historical pieces from this textile company’s rich history.

And check out the door hardware! The loom shuttle replicas to tie together what this company is all about.

Reclaimed wood and stone greet you as you enter this space: a space to represent the future of a longstanding business committed to not only recruiting new talent but also ensuring workplace satisfaction to retain valued employees.

3) The Functionality

As this office was designed with Millennials in mind, collaboration spaces were key. This generation prefers open areas to meet versus sitting in an office, so we created the space to host impromptu and scheduled meetings.

And take a peek in modern offices these days: you will see modern, even funky, furniture where one can get comfortable working, almost like home. We incorporated sofas and other upholstered chairs to bolster this trend.

Technology… that’s a given right? Absolutely. I’m convinced the board rooms in this office could communicate with other planets. Okay, I’m kidding, but they are super cool. Of course they are designed with all the typical presentation functionality, but we love the feature which can set music, lights, and window shades at the touch of a button. Heck, you never know when you might need to switch from presentation mode to project celebration mode in an instant! Now that’s a multi-tasking office of the future!

4) The Green + Health Components

Because our Founder + Principal Angela Self is a certified Building Biologist, incorporating healthy features really excites us, but more importantly: incorporating health is a top workplace trend. Here are few of the ways we made this office renovation project healthier and greener:

  • Ceiling. The ceiling tiles are the Calla series by Armstrong, which are 76% recycled, provide better air quality through reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and Living Building Challenge compliant.
  • Hydration. Our water bottle filling stations are not what you see in most buildings because those are only filtering one toxin (generally lead) and there are thousands of toxins in tap water. The ones in this office will give you some of the cleanest, healthiest water possible.
  • Paint. We used Ecos Zero VOC Paint. While many paints advertise zero VOC, they can still contain harmful chemicals because they are not required to be identified on the label. This company excludes these harmful chemicals, and although our painter had never used these paints, he let me know he loved using these products.
  • Combination Nursing/Peloton Room. A Peloton is an indoor bike with a screen that offers all sorts of on demand workout programs.
  • Carpet. You’ll notice we did not do much carpet. Carpet decreases air quality — even new carpet materials are high in VOCs and toxins. Carpet has the ability to hold in all sorts of toxins, especially anything on the bottom of your shoes. Studies (and common sense…) show there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands of chemicals, toxins, germs, etc. routinely found on the bottoms of shoes.
  • Lighting. Studies show offering as much natural light as possible improves employee satisfaction and performance. We used a new technology called tunable lighting. That means we can change the color temperature and brightness of the LED fixtures to mimic times of day and natural light.

5) The Fun!

You’ve heard the quote: “Love what you do and never work a day in your life.” It’s our absolute belief that work should be fun. And that’s just what we did.

[x_image type=”rounded” float=”none” src=”https://vitalspacesnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/office-renovation-project-team.jpg” alt=”GMI Office Renovation Project Team” title=”GMI Office Renovation Project Team” info=”tooltip” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]


Chlorine Alternatives: Sanitize Without Toxic Chemicals

Looking for Chlorine Alternatives to Disinfect Your Pool? Read On! We dealt with water filtration and purity in our last post. This time, we’re going to tackle chlorine alternatives. Water is vital for life, and it’s important that it be as pure as possible. Hopefully uou have some sort of filtration system in place. If […]

Clear and Clean: An Overview of Residential and Commercial Water Filtration

Water Filtration is Necessary for Clean Water

“It is estimated that there are over 85,000 possible contaminants in the water supply. Of these thousands of contaminants, water municipalities test for only roughly 120.”

~ Article in Healing Our World, a publication by the Hippocrates Health Institute

An Overview of Residential and Commercial Water Filtration OptionsWe’re talking about clean water. H2O. Pure aqua. It’s a necessity for life. And there are tens of thousands of possible contaminants potentially present in the water that reaches your home. Municipalities who supply water test for only 120 of those substances. That’s less than two tenths of one percent. Let that sink in. Water may be “tested” to be safe by your water treatment facility for those 120 items, but what about the other 84,880 contaminants?

If you are concerned about your health (and you should be!), filtering your tap water is an easy and cost effective way to decrease illness and increase wellness.

We often have clients ask why certain water filtration methods are not recommended. Many of you have heard about filtration methods or your health care practitioner has recommended a particular method. This article will be a good start toward helping you understand the different methods of water filtration and why we recommend ours over other popular methods. The methods we will discuss today include reverse osmosis, distillation, and our custom filtration.

About Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is the process of using high pressure to force water through a semi-permeable membrane. It is very effective in removing dissolved salts, minerals, bacteria, and pyrogens. Its pores will block large molecular structures but more dangerous chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and chlorine are molecularly smaller than water and may pass through. Additionally, because it strips the water of natural minerals that your body needs, it can actually leach minerals from your body (this is also the case with distillation, below). Finally, it wastes a large portion of water that runs through the system and is a very slow process facilitating the need for a holding tank especially if used for whole house filtration.

About Distillation

Distillation is like evaporation: water is heated to create steam and as the steam separates from the contaminants, it leaves the contaminants behind. This process removes contaminants that have a higher boiling point than water, which includes a majority of issues. It will reliably remove bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and minerals. However, there are some chemicals that have a lower boiling point than water (such as chlorine) and it will not remove those. That being said, this is our second favorite water filtration method because it is very effective at removing harmful substances from your water. However, it will also remove the healthy minerals (as discussed above) and, this is an incredibly slow method. It can take several hours to provide one gallon of clean water. This renders distillation nearly impossible to use for whole house filtration.

Custom Filtration: A Better Option for Clean Water

Our point-of-entry whole house customized filtration targets all the water entering your home so that you don’t have to bathe or brush your teeth in contaminated water. We do not sell you an “off the shelf” system. First we ask you to fill out a questionnaire regarding your needs and any health issues. Second, we obtain the water report from your local water treatment facility to check what issues there are with your water. Generally, at point of entry, you will have a carbon tank to remove chlorine, chloramines and their by-products (called THMs and HAAs). This will reduce these contaminants by at least 98%. Industrial chemicals are reduced by 80 – 95%. We can add heavy metal removing media to remove fluoride, arsenic, lead, copper, chromium and most other heavy metals by 80 – 90%. This will clean the water very effectively for bathing, brushing your teeth, etc. Then, additional filtration is placed at your kitchen sink (ceramic and other upgrades depending on your specific needs) for drinking and cooking which will further reduces, chemicals, parasites, VOCs, metals, and bacteria. Best of all, our kitchen sink filtration removes an incredible 99% of fluoride from your drinking water! This approach provides you with some of the cleanest, healthiest water possible.

What About Water Filtration for Businesses?

Lets talk for a minute specifically about commercial filtration. We are happy to see in recent years many offices and businesses providing water bottle filling stations. This is fantastic because research shows that if we have access to drinking water, we will drink more water. However, did you know, these stations use the word “filtered” but in most cases they are only filtering out only one thing such as lead? We feel this is misleading, but in building biology we feel any attempt to be healthier is progress worth celebrating. At least these stations are helping us to drink more water.

Vital Spaces offers not only systems for your home; we also offer systems for offices and businesses including commercial water bottling stations that offer excellent filtration!

Healthy Home Lighting Makes a Difference in Your Home

Lighting in your home can affect your health.

Healthy Home LightingDo you ever think about lighting and how it affects your health? Not only is lighting extremely important in creating a particular atmosphere, but it is also affecting your health. Most people know that healthy home lighting can affect melatonin levels and sleep, but did you know it could also affect cortisol, asthma, and even blood sugar balance? And by the way, if you did not know this: melatonin is some of our best free-radical scavengers and cancer fighting protection.

Last month we discussed lighting geared toward workplaces and discussed the components of lighting. The information in that post is geared toward healthy office lighting, but many of the principles are applicable to healthy home lighting as well. Click here to revisit that office lighting post and review lumens, color temperature and color rendering index.

Keep in mind lower Kelvin temperature is warm and cozy while higher Kelvin values are more like daylight, which is invigorating. The higher the temperature, the more blue is in the light, which increases mental alertness and reduces melatonin.

A Side Note About Melatonin and Sleep

Electronic screens emit blue light which is one of the reasons using technology in the evenings and/or before bed could disrupt your sleep.

Have you been strong-armed into using CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs because you’ve heard they are green and consume less energy? Not so fast. CFL bulbs create dirty power on your wiring system. You could install filters to remove this interference, but these filters are still controversial as they sometimes increase other types of electromagnetic radiation. Plus, the electricity used by the filters would cancel out any type of energy savings offered by CFLs. That’s dealing with normal operation. But what about when you break a CFL bulb? The mercury released actually creates a hazardous waste area! Yikesola. They are very toxic. If — or in our experience when —you break a fluorescent bulb, we recommend you seal off the area, open a window and leave immediately. You can return 24 hours later for clean up after all has settled. Studies show if a fluorescent bulb is broken on carpet, you can never completely remove the mercury. Plus, in our opinion, they are pretty ugly and the light they emit is simply not attractive.

And while we are on the subject of fluorescent lighting, they really are not a healthy source of lighting as they are shown to cause migraine headaches (http://www.livestrong.com/article/122360-health-effects-fluorescent-lighting/) and eye disease (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222423/).

Conventional wisdom on “green” lighting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What do we do?

Remember those good ole incandescent bulbs? Yep those! They work just fine, the light is good and they don’t cause health issues. In the home, standard incandescent bulbs are great! LED lighting is another option. LEDs are generally better than CFL bulbs, but consider these two things:

  1. Some are worse than others, but our friends at Healthy Building Science have done some testing (http://healthybuildingscience.com/2013/09/10/emi-and-leds-not-all-leds-are-the-same/) and it appears that CREE LEDs are best.
  2. Be aware of Line Voltage vs. Low Voltage. “What?” you might say. Line voltage is the standard voltage found in outlets and junction boxes (examples include lamps, and most ceiling fixtures) while low voltage uses a transformer to step the voltage down from 120 volts to 12 volts.

Many recessed can lights are low voltage, as are task lighting, desk lighting and LED strips. Do we love having this kind of lighting for working or just creating a mood? Of course we do! However, it comes at a price, and that price is magnetic fields. If you choose this type of lighting, place the driver/transformer away from locations where you spend a lot of time

Well friends, there’s still a chill in the air where we are, so w’re headed to light our EcoSmart non-toxic bioethanol fire. We have to admit fire light might be our favorite source of lighting!

Cheers to living healthy!

Healthy Office Lighting: It Can Improve Workplace Productivity!

Healthy Office Lighting - tips and guidelinesHealthy office lighting is important.

As health trends continue to permeate the office and our working environment, one area not given much attention is lighting. Clearly we love what lights do to create an atmosphere. Although office design trends today tend toward open spaces with more aesthetic natural lighting, artificial lighting is a necessity in an office. If you can’t use 100% natural light, let’s at least make sure it’s healthy office lighting.

Lets quickly review some of the fundamentals of healthy lighting.

Most people think in terms of brightness, however, there are other factors to consider in addition to brightness.

Brightness. This important quality of lighting is measured in lumens. A 60-watt incandescent bulb has a brightness of 800 lumens.

Color Temperature. The second piece is color temperature measured in Kelvin: 2000K – 3000K is warm light which is cozy and inviting; 3100K – 4500K is cool white light which is bright and vibrant; and 4600K – 6500K is more like sunlight/daylight and is invigorating. By adding more blue light, this number can increase beyond 6500K.

Color Rendering Index. The final component is Color Rendering Index (CRI) and means the lights ability reveal the color spectrum in the same way natural light does. The higher the number, the fuller the spectrum and these numbers range from 1-100.

Natural light is best…

As we all know, offering as much natural light as possible in an office is best. In fact, a study published in Health Environments Research and Design Journal reported nurses exposed to natural lighting experienced lower blood pressure, better moods, increased alertness and better cognitive performance. And, a study conducted in Britain showed that windows were the number one determinant of worker satisfaction with the building.

Of course we know that abundant natural light is not always possible in an office environment, so what to do? The next best thing is to utilize lighting components to “simulate” natural lighting. Combining color temperature of 5000K or more and a CRI of between 80 and 90 is how this simulated natural lighting is generally accomplished.

Information also shows that adding blue to light can increase work performance, support mental acuity, and create a happier more productive employee. A UNC article says adding blue to lighting creates great brainstorming areas whereas warmer tones might be best for areas in an office like conference rooms and break rooms.

And finally, how much brightness is optimal?

Brightness is often a personal preference in workspaces. But a general rule of thumb is to ensure there is at least 215 lux at 30” above the finished floor, which is generally desk height. If you start there, it’s a good foundation for making any other smaller adjustments for the differences in personal taste or the requirements of specific tasks.

Clearly, lighting can impact employee health and productivity.

That being said, any improvements in your workforce are going to make a difference. We like to think of it in terms of the 3/30/300 Rule. If you spend $3 per square foot on utilities, you will spend $30 per square foot on facilities and $300 per square foot on the people in the building. Without a doubt, spending money on your employees is the biggest bang for your buck. And healthy office lighting is a hinge between your utilities, your facilities and your people.

As J.W. Marriott said so perfectly, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.”

Get Better Sleep! 5 Ways to Create a Sleeping Sanctuary

Ahhhhhh … we love the holidays! But they can be exhausting.

Get Better Sleep! Here are 5 Ways to Create Sleeping SanctuaryDo you wish you could have better sleep? Do you need some rest? Likely. Or are you one of the millions of people who suffer from insomnia?

Tip: Ensure your bedroom is the safest and healthiest place in your home.

Did you know your body is in healing mode while you sleep? And, the human body is five to ten times more susceptible to toxins while sleeping? Getting better sleep can make the difference between being healthy and being ill.

Even if you can’t make the rest of your home healthy, you owe it to yourself to create a sleeping sanctuary. Better sleep matters. If you can get the proper healing while you rest, your body is much better able to take on the stress and toxins of your daytime schedule.

So here we go. Here are five tips you can use to transform your bedroom into a sleeping sanctuary.

  1. Non-Toxic Bedding. One of the best things you can do for better sleep is use organic sheets and blankets. And of course be sure you launder them in non-toxic detergent regularly and with heat to destroy dust mites and bed bugs. Keeping your home at 40-60% humidity will also keep these little pests at bay. But be aware that humidity over 60% encourages mold growth. Ideally your mattress should be all-natural as well. We love our organic latex (made from a rubber tree) mattress. And finally, do not use a metal bed, as it will conduct electricity. More on electromagnetic radiation later.
  2. Screens. We are sure you have heard this before but please do not use computers or other electronics in the bedroom. Research shows the blue light emitted by screens suppress production of melatonin. Additionally, they keep your brain alert when it needs to begin relaxing.
  3. Toxins. Be sure no product or building material used in the bedroom will off gas or increase toxins. Remove carpet (use area rugs if necessary) and use natural flooring such as bamboo that does not utilize toxic sealing or adhesives. A floating or nail-down floor is best. Any other paints, sealers, or caulks should be non-toxic. Additionally, remove any clutter so dust does not accumulate.
  4. Ventilation. Open a window! If you can, getting fresh air while you sleep will improve air quality and hence improve sleep. This may not be possible in cities with lots of noise or pollution.
  5. Electromagnetic Radiation. Finally, and our favorite: electromagnetic radiation (EMR). All forms of electromagnetic radiation are linked to insomnia. Cut the circuit to your bedroom or at least unplug anything around your head and use a battery alarm clock to reduce electric fields. Eliminate or shield radio frequency: cut off wifi while sleeping, remove cordless phones, cell phones and any wireless devices from the bedroom. If you live near a cell tower, you can use certain types of paint to shield your bedroom or any other room in your house from cell tower energy. You also want to be sure your electric meter or any big appliance such as a refrigerator is not near the bedroom.

Do you want to see how close you are to a cell tower? Check the website www.AntennaSearch.com to see. It’s best to be more than a quarter mile from an antenna or tower.

If you apply these tips and experience better sleep, would you let us know? And as always, if you need professional help, we would be glad to connect with you and help you create your very own sleeping sanctuary. Send a quick message online or call at 864.980.3341. We would love to know how things are working for you!

Sweet Dreams!