12 / BUILDING DIALOGUE / JUNE 2023 How Developers Can Make a Positive Social Impact with Art D id you know that 39% of greenhouse gas emissions on the plan- et come from buildings? And over half of the materials that go in U.S. landfills come from construction? Jon Buerge, chief development officer at Urban Villages, shared these insights on dot dot dot: The Nine dot Arts Podcast, and it got me thinking about how far the commercial real estate industry has come in both measur- ing and reducing our carbon footprint. Though there’s still progress to be made, today’s leading AEC professionals know how to achieve the “E” in “ESG.” Regarding the “G,” we’ve taken positive strides toward ensuring that projects are managed with transparency, ethics and community buy-in. Yet so much of corporate governance is tangled up in the “S” of ESG goals, and that’s where I see the most potential. We in the real estate industry have a social responsibil- ity to ensure our projects benefit communities – both during and after development. Here are four ways that leveraging art and culture in real estate development can help achieve “S” in environ- mental, social and governance goals. n Improve quality of life. According to our State of the Art Survey, 90% of real estate leaders believe that art improves the quality of life for people who use that space. That’s because engaging with art can impact over- all happiness and well-being. From helping to alleviate stress and promote creativity, to enhancing social con- nectedness and belonging, art in the built environment improves happiness and – by extension – healthiness. Numerous studies have shown that happier people are healthier people, and this creates ripple effects in com- munities, businesses and society at large. Positive men- tal health behaviors include increased productivity – a benefit for companies – as well as greater empathy and compassion toward others. This means that beyond its aesthetic appeal, art in the built environment can shape social behaviors in ways that improve quality of life and lead to stronger, more supportive communities. n Promote diversity and inclusion. Art can be a power- ful tool for promoting diversity and inclusion, especially as developers seek to reflect the cultural and history of the places in which they’re building. In turn, uplifting lo- cal and underrepresented artists can help build goodwill and good press for projects. At Denver’s Catbird Hotel, for example, the expansive art collection reflects diversity in both the artists rep- resented and the subject matters depicted. Captivating corridor portraits highlight the strength and resiliency of communities of color, from everyday individuals to cultural icons like Beyonce and Biggie Smalls. The exte- rior mural by local artist Moe Gram portrays influential Denver activists who have worked to combat gentrifica- tion and honor neighborhood integrity. And on the roof- top, Kenzie Sitterud’s “Future Seat” sculptures express the intersection of diversity, inclusion and environmen- tal awareness, using stacks of colorful chairs to suggest having a "seat at the table.” Altogether, the art at Catbird makes a profound social impact, distinguishing the hotel as both the “place to be” and a place where everyone belongs. n Spark social engagement. Another way art can make a social impact is by sparking individual interactions Art with Impact Martha Weidmann CEO and Co-founder, Nine dot Arts Nine dot Arts Catbird Hotel: Artist - Kenzie Sitterud Brien Hollowell Catbird Hotel: Artist - Moe Gram