Zero net energy buildings are no longer a vision of utopian, but a fact. Sustainability in construction has evolved to enable offices, hotels and homes to be designed in an environmentally friendly way. All of this makes more sense when similar principles are applied to interior design: a balanced approach to both the use of finishing materials and the needs of contemporary employees.
Designing offices towards WELL
According to research conducted in April 2019 by the Polish Association of Ecological Building, the number of certified investments in Poland is gradually increasing (from 23% the previous year to 29%). To a large extent the report concerned office buildings. The report also indicates that Poland is a leader in Central and Eastern Europe in the field of BREEAM, LEED, DGNB, HQE and WELL Building Standard certification. The latter is still waiting for greater recognition and application in Poland although we can already see how important sustainable design is becoming.
It’s not conducive to work
WELL certification of buildings in Poland have so far been presented only to office developments where health and well-being directly translates into effective work. Rick Fedrizzi, President and Managing Director of the International WELL Building Institute, rightly defines what needs to be changed and why: “We spend 90 percent of our time in buildings that still use furniture and installations that emit toxins. These, combined with inadequate technical solutions for air exchange, significantly reduce the quality of the indoor environment. Add to this poor lighting and acoustics.”
Effects of spending time in conditions unfavourable to health very quickly translate into the employees well-being and even frequent sick leave. How to prevent this should be thoroughly considered at the stage of office space design, preferably using the WELL certification requirements.
Wellbeing in the workplace
The greatest challenge nowadays is to provide clean, fresh air. Following NASA’s 1989 research into the effects that plants can have to reduce the toxicity of an environment, the trend towards biophilic design that introduces greenery into the workplace is growing. Ferns, dragons, chrysanthemums and ivies not only deal with the removal of airborne contaminants but also help to balance humidity so significantly improving the well-being of employees. The need to commune with nature on a daily basis is very strong in us, hence the fact therefore this trend encourages the use of natural materials and colours for interiors.
Equally important aspect is to design office space in a varied and diverse way so that you can work not only at your workstation, but also in other areas being colourful, creative and acoustically comfortable. Special booths and cubicles and spaces such as conference rooms silenced by cork or special acoustic panels are best suited to insulate from ambient office noise. An equally important aspect is provision of light, preferably natural light which can be augmented by skilfully designed artificial intelligent lighting, the kind that the user can adjust to his own needs. Cooler for active work, warmer for relaxation or less demanding tasks.
Because we work for hours sitting in one position, WELL certification requires employers to provide solutions that support and encourage physical activity. For example, provision of a room equipped
to serve as a place both to relax and exercise to help straighten the spine.
Today’s technologies allow truly work-friendly space design where the atmosphere is conducive to concentration, creativity and effective work. In such offices, you simply want to work.