NDY sustainability consultant Dr Jane Lai has become the company’s first WELL-accredited practitioner, and of the very first in Australasia. She shares her thoughts on why the WELL rating tool is getting so much attention.
I would like you to imagine a workplace: a desk and a chair.
The view is a blank empty white wall. A photocopier and printer room is only metres away. The mechanical noise of the photocopier machinery and the smell of ink and printing paper is constant.
There are windows in your office but they aren’t close. On a sunny afternoon, the sun hits at just the right angle and a blinding glare reflects off your computer screen.
The office ventilation is inadequate and the environment is stuffy.
The nearby vending machine offers fatty and salty junk food as the only option for a much needed snack.
This is what you have to look forward to five days a week.
How does that make you feel?
A fundamental blessing to any individual is good health and happiness. This encompasses physical and psychological health and extends to the workplace. Physical and psychological health provides the energy and will to live, to work and to play. Whether it be recreational or office activity, people function at their best when they possess both aspects of health.
This notion of holistic wellbeing has been gaining momentum and interest among building owners, developers, designers and users. There is an increasing demand from the market to deliver sustainable and healthy buildings, and at the same time to eliminate sick-building syndrome.
I was recently introduced to the WELL Building Standard, pioneered by Delos and administered by International WELL Building Institute. I was intrigued by their approach based on medical research, in providing a tool to design and assess buildings.
Not only do the health concepts resonate on a personal level, but I recognise that I am in the right profession to make positive impacts on people’s lives.
People can spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors: in the office, at home, in school, at the supermarket, in the shopping centre. The built environment can passively influence habits and choices that have direct and indirect impacts on our health.
As a designer of buildings, the people-focused aspect of WELL is appealing to the provision of healthy spaces. In an office environment, working effectively means high productivity and efficiency. Office buildings are traditionally designed to maximise space usage for high-density accommodation with little consideration to the health and wellbeing of end users. This has changed over the years but there is still work to be done to translate scientific medical research into practical applications.
Office workers typically spend some 40 hours a week or more in their designated working stations. Improved computing technology will only bring more people into an indoor working environment.
In a world where market competition is on the rise, there is higher demand and expectation for people to work in stressed conditions. Business globalisation is seeing the rise and acceleration of 24/7 occupations. Business owners are increasingly aware of the importance of physical and psychological wellbeing of employees for business growth and performance.
WELL bridges this understanding and scientific research into tangible applications and outcomes. It addresses issues such as air quality, water contaminants, healthy food choices, circadian lighting design, incorporation of micro-exercise into daily tasks, sound comfort, olfactory comfort, business travel and time spent away from family, sleep policy, altruism and positive visual aesthetics in the office.
WELL is a combination of building design, policy and management, and performance-based monitoring for healthy building design.
I am excited to be part of capable design teams in delivering healthy buildings to society. As an occupant and user of buildings myself, I have a vested personal interest in getting this right and achieving NDY’s purpose of “making spaces work”.
Now stop imagining the stuffy office space and start looking forward to a bright happy office every morning.
Dr Jane Lai is an asset performance and ESD consultant with NDY.