UPDATED 8 MAY 2015: According to CBRE associate director Tony Armstrong, the next big green wave sweeping the commercial property world is wellness for employees. That’s great light, clean air, water, nutrition advice, lessons in healthy cooking, a thriving veggie garden and even a doctor in house if you need it.
In Australia there’s a race to be the first to be accredited with a certificate from the International WELL Building Institute. Vying to create similar healthy workplaces with vegie gardens good food and the like (but not yet registered) are Medibank at its 720 Bourke Street building in Melbourne, Australia Post also in Melbourne , and another owner in Brisbane looking seriously at the concept.
But hands down to be first to be certified is Macquarie Bank’s 50 Martin Place, in Sydney, the only Australian building to be registered so far, with a launch date expected in July.
From the so-called “millionaires” factory this looks like an interesting new take on wealth.
During recent training in the concept in the US, Armstrong and his colleague Mitchal Brown visited Bloomberg’s in New York, which is following the healthy buildings trend and praised the company, saying what nice people they must be.
“Well, we like people to think we’re nice,” a company rep told Armstrong, “but to tell the truth we did it because we ran the numbers and it adds up for us.”
For instance there is a doctor in the building, which sounds caring but is actually highly efficient since this saves employees leaving the office for a few hours. Back to work they go, meds and recovery program tucked under arm. And on the ground floor there is loads of healthy food laid on, but that’s also where the television cameras are often crossing live to get the latest views on the financial shenanigans of the markets. The milling crowd looks good as a background on camera.
“You can get nutrition advice and have your body fat tested at any time of the day,” Armstrong says.
And the lifts only stop on every second floor, unless you’re disabled. All things good for the employee, but also good for the company.
What about getting people to exercise? It’s a bit hard to work and run at the same time we proffer. Armstrong says he’s seen places where phones and computers are positioned on treadmills.
“The telephone cords are just hanging over the sides, gathering dust.”
Nope. Work and run is something the workplace change agents have yet to conquer.
In a quick briefing from Hong Kong on Thursday Armstrong said he and Brown travelled to San Francisco to find out what was going on in the world of Well Buildings and found a potential revolution.
In Australia, he says, landlords see it as a ripe opportunity to reposition crusty old ’80s buildings without having to redo the foyer out in marble or retrofitting the aesthetics of the lifts.
He says there is a quite a bit of alignment with green buildings because requirements for clean air and good light are key to better workspaces. Except, as he says, this is focusing on the people instead of the environment.
In the US, founder of the International WELL Building Institute Paul Scialla is working with the US Green Building Council and its charismatic chief executive Rick Fedrizzi, who sits on the advisory board.
Green Business Certification Inc will also handle assessments for the institute.
According to an institute spokeswoman 51 per cent of project fees will be directed to “charitable contributions and impact investment focused on health, wellness, and the built environment”.
He says the movement is all part of the buzz around so called “B Corps” that want to do social good through profitable means. Turning capitalism to do well, as he puts it.
And in a nice twist, Armstrong and Brown say their company is determined to lead the rollout of WELL Buildings in Australia and they now have it in their KPIs to ensure this happens.
So to shore up his yearly performance review he’s working on getting a training course in Singapore so that all the CBRE colleagues can get their credentials ahead of everybody else.
The institute spokeswoman said workshops Asia Pacific are confirmed for later this month – in Beijing on May 12, Shanghai on May 14, Shenzhen on May 19.
UPDATE: 8 May 2015 – Tony Armstrong reports that on Thursday night he attend the “grand opening of Haworth’s new office in Shanghai, the first office in China to apply the WELL Building Standard, along with colleagues, Reed Hatcher and Hedy Lee and executive director of CBRE GCS China Helmut Weih.
“There is a huge opportunity for WELL in China because people are becoming more wealthy, so they want healthy buildings to protect them from pollution,” Armstrong said.
This article was originally published on 30 April 2015