An issue focusing on the importance of Wellness in the Workplace.
Stuart Harris (AIA, LEED AP ID+C), a partner with PDR, was recently interviewed for an article in the Fall 2016 issue of ICON Magazine, a publication of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).
The article, by Lisa Owens Viani, paints an image of an unhealthy work environment followed by imagery of a healthy work environment. “Imagine instead working in a building where fresh breezes blow in through open windows, where you can catnap in a hammock next to a green wall covered with epiphytes and orchids, drink tap water that actually tastes good, munch on fresh fruit made available every day, and sit or stand at your workstation as desired, all while enjoying natural lighting that corresponds to your internal body clock. Workplaces such as these may be much more common in the future as more companies are starting to realize that healthier buildings can lead to healthier employees—and save them lots of money.”
Referencing the history of WELL Building Standards, the article lists the 7 categories that the standard sets performance requirements for that are related to human health – air water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. As a subject matter expert, Stuart, was quoted "[for him] the most important aspect of WELL is that when you go into a space it just feels better, even if you don’t know why – something about it is warm and inviting.” A few key lessons Stuart describes include the following:
Promote the WELL concept of an active workplace by designing collaborative spaces in spots that require people to get up and move around. The intention is enable employees to meet basic fitness needs throughout a typical day, without it feeling forced or cumbersome.
“Letting daylight in is important, but so is controlling how much at what time. Harris has installed automated shades that respond to the position of the sun vis-à-vis the building and sense when the sky is clouding over. “[They are] not inexpensive but they are probably one of the greatest values a client can have,” says Stuart.“ He also advises his clients to make sure everyone has access to natural light, even in interior offices and in the mailroom. With more light in the building, he says, one client’s employees started asking, “‘Are these floors bigger than the others? I don’t know why this new office is so great, it just is.’ That’s where the client starts to get a return on their investment.”
As important as light, air quality is also a great feature in WELL workspaces. “When you have spaces used by large groups of people—a meeting room or training class or a small room with lots of people in it—all of these people shift the carbon dioxide concentrations within the room. The higher the carbon dioxide concentration, the sleepier we get,” he explains. To achieve Ventilation Effectiveness, a designer could, in addition to installing a good ventilation system, install a demand-controlled ventilation feature that monitors the carbon dioxide and ensures that the right amount of fresh air is pulled in (so that carbon dioxide levels stay below 800 parts per million, or ppm). Projects that implement the Operable Window feature and can demonstrate that natural ventilation keeps carbon dioxide below 800 ppm (for the room’s intended occupancy) also help meet the Ventilation Effectiveness feature.
It’s not only important for designers to create beautiful, healthy workspaces, it’s also important to educate clients on the change that a design project can have on their environment. Sometimes taking the shape of a welcome guide or brochures about the building or space, is sufficient while other times it’s takes on a more comprehensive strategic plan about protocols and practices around how to use the space and its attributes. “[Stuart] Harris has realized that WELL is as much about behavior and company culture as it is about physical improvements.”
The article ends quoting Paul Sciala, founder of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), in response to why it’s taken us so long to start thinking this way about buildings. “Hopefully, one day we’ll look back and see things like WELL as normal,” says Sciala.
For more information on WELL and workplace design, contact us at 713.739.9050.
For a copy of the full article by ICON Magazine, click here.
Stuart Harris is an award-winning Architect and serves as Principal in Charge for large-scale corporate relocations, comprehensive renovations and major facility transformations. Stuart is one of the foremost authorities on LEED and sustainable design. As Director of Sustainability at PDR, Stuart is a LEED AP ID+C and provisional WELL AP. He delivered Platinum certification for our own PDR office relocation project and Silver for Schlumberger’s corporate headquarters relocation from NY to Houston, both AIA award winning projects.