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Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

The Office Agenda brings together our extensive insight into what makes an office that people – from employees to the board – prefer.

Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

Wellbeing

7 principles of healthy buildings

The idea that those involved in designing buildings need to think about how they can enhance people’s physical and mental wellbeing is increasingly gaining traction

The World Health Organization reports that many people in Europe spend over 90% of their time indoors. So it’s not surprising that buildings underpin our physical and mental wellbeing. As the boundaries blur between work and leisure, there is growing interest in ‘healthy’ buildings.

“This is about employers recognising that the right working environment can help them attract and retain talent as well as improve productivity,” says Matt Webster, Head of Wellbeing and Futureproofing at British Land.

He points out that many studies show that access to greenery and other natural elements boosts mental health and productivity. “Enhanced air quality has been linked to improved cognitive function,” he explains, “while shared spaces and recreational opportunities encourage social relationships – one of the most powerful drivers of human health and wellbeing.”

Health and wellbeing are natural complements to sustainability”
Ann Marie Aguilar, IWBI

At 100 Liverpool Street, Broadgate, British Land is currently constructing a building that will provide high-quality office and retail space. With wellbeing in mind, the company has teamed up with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) to pursue WELL Certification – and it is aiming for 100 Liverpool Street to be one of the first WELL Certified buildings in London. WELL Core and Shell Certification includes the areas of the building controlled by the owner, including common spaces, such as lobbies and elevator banks.

Proven performance

The WELL Building Standard was launched in 2014 and quickly started to attract interest around the world. IWBI currently has 26 construction projects in the UK, of which four are certified – the highest number in Europe.

Ann Marie Aguilar, Director of Operations, Europe at IWBI, explains how WELL differs from other certifications in the built environment. “Most sustainability rating tools are based on the submission of design and construction documentation,” she says. “But with WELL, performance verification, which is a key component, can only happen when projects are complete and they’re occupied.”

“The built environment can and should be used as an instrument to improve health, happiness and productivity”
Matt Webster, British Land

WELL Certification focuses on innovations to promote health and wellbeing through the quality of the physical environment and by facilitating healthy lifestyles. Webster says he would encourage all developers and landlords to ask themselves seven questions centred on the WELL design concepts:

  • Air: Can we use ventilation to improve levels of fresh air?
  • Light: Will we get sufficient natural daylight indoors?
  • Fitness: How do we encourage active lifestyles through design?
  • Water: Can we guarantee access to consistently high-quality drinking water?
  • Nourishment: Can we encourage healthier food choices through our retail mix?
  • Comfort: How can we minimise noise, regulate temperatures and provide easy access for everyone?
  • Mind: How do we use the landscape to connect people with nature?

“These tenets have provided a useful framework for our architects, designers and engineers,” he says. “Together, they have incorporated all seven WELL concepts into the design at 100 Liverpool Street. A smart ventilation system has been put in place, with CO2 sensors which pump 16 litres of fresh air into the building per person per second, and we have landscaped terraces on five levels to connect people with nature.”

Benefits of the built environment

Webster stresses that workplaces have an important role to play in preventing ill health before it occurs. “Active design can get people moving around more, reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease, depression and other health issues,” he says. “The built environment can and should be used as an instrument to improve health, happiness and productivity.”

Aguilar says IWBI is trying to ensure that all those involved in the construction of office buildings understand how central wellbeing is to what they do.

Health and wellbeing are natural complements to sustainability,” she says. “This is part and parcel of how you deliver a really high-quality building. So we began by reaching out to all the BREEAM and LEED sustainability professionals in our market, because they’ve already been delivering rating tools that increase the performance of a building. We want to work in tandem with them.”

She adds that, even though the WELL concept is still fairly new, there is already proof that it works. The first WELL Certified project in the UK was at One Carter Lane in the City of London, the offices of engineering firm Cundall. “They’re now showing really positive impacts in terms of employee engagement, reduction in absenteeism and higher productivity,” she says.

Webster concludes: “WELL has real potential to be good news for people and their employers. The thoughtful design of buildings and the surrounding environment demonstrates that an employer cares about the wellbeing of their people. It is an issue that is becoming ever more important as the war for talent becomes more competitive.”

Tagged in: AIR QUALITY, DESIGN, HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY, WELLBEING

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