COVID-19 impacted all public assembly facilities in much the same way. When the coronavirus took hold, new regulations were implemented that temporarily reduced or eliminated occupant capacities of these facilities. At the same time, fear of being in public places further depressed attendance.
In order to help restore confidence in gathering events and to help regulators understand its protection of public health and welfare, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, closely examined its processes and longstanding cleaning and maintenance operations to see where they could be augmented and made more effective, as well as where new investments to infrastructure were needed.
“The WELL Health-Safety Rating also became a vehicle to help us communicate what we were doing,” says Michael Lathrop, Facilities Architect for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
To progress and express their commitments to public health priorities, facility managers are seeking third-party verification ratings rooted in science to protect employees and fans, as well as sharing with all stakeholders the steps being taken to certify they are safe.
We recently sat down with Michael Lathrop to learn his organization’s philosophies around health and safety, its objectives around using a rating system, and why operations systems like air filtration matter beyond the current pandemic. The following transcript has been slightly edited for clarity.
How does your organization advance health and wellness values?
A core philosophy or ‘ism’ of our organization is to do the right thing. It flows down from our Chairman Dan Gilbert through our leadership team into the DNA of who we are.
We view a focus on advancing health and safety as the right thing for our team and guests. Also, since a big part of what we do is sports-focused, it gives us a great platform to highlight and advance health and wellness throughout our organization and the larger community, much like we do with sustainability initiatives.
Why did you choose to pursue WELL Health-Safety?
We chose the WELL Health-Safety Rating due to it being well-grounded in science and also because of the IWBI’s experience in developing and administering WELL Certification. The large number of notable experts and organizations that have contributed to it was a great selling point for us.
It also has the recognition that’s associated with an organization that has a huge profile in the industry and public consciousness. Our objective was to use this rating as a platform to document those things we were already doing and also to create a sustainable platform to constantly improve upon.
How does WELL Health-Safety align with the mission or values of your organization?
As an organization, constant improvement is our focus. We feel that if the WELL Health-Safety Rating process is implemented in an organization, it can be a sustainable platform to advance improvement.
Who from your organization was involved in the rating process?
We drew upon a wide range of team members in order to develop our strategy for achieving the WELL Health-Safety Rating. Our team included members of our leadership team, human resources, housekeeping, and operations teams. We looked at what aspects or prerequisites were already in place and where we needed to stretch in order to achieve the remaining required points.
What aspects of your project are you particularly proud of?
We’re really proud of our air filtration, if that’s not too geeky of a thing to say. We performed an air study and discovered that, although we had one of the best filtration systems, we could tweak it to still improve upon what we had. Additionally, it revealed opportunities to increase the volume of outside air we were introducing which helps dilute pathogens.
What challenges did you face when incorporating WELL Health-Safety features?
Honestly, we found the process to be relatively straightforward. The support we received from IWBI was excellent.
What positive impacts resulted from your verification process?
It brought the issue of sustainability front and center for us. Facilities are massive investments, and we realized that by incorporating some of the more proactive elements, we could detect and head off minor problems that could eventually become more expensive to address.
How has the WELL Health-Safety Rating changed or improved your company culture or operations?
It changes the perspective of what it is to be sustainable and shifts it beyond green issues. Sustainability also includes the mental and physical wellbeing of those who occupy the facilities we manage and the larger community.
How do your employees and fans benefit from the WELL Health-Safety Rating?
A lot of what we did previously, from a cleaning and maintenance perspective, was largely behind the scenes and invisible to the public. By having the WELL Health-Safety Rating, our team members and guests who occupy the FieldHouse can have confidence that we’re doing all the things we can to keep them safe.
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