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.

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”]


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.”