In May 2020, Anya Sarkisiants, founder and chief designer of DESIGNIC, participated in the VITRINA design summit on interior design tips and trends.
In her presentation called “Well being. Standards of Modern Workspaces,” Anya explained:
- what is the difference between BREEAM, LEED and WELL certifications,
- why WELL certification is becoming more and more popular among customers of public spaces,
- how to equip the premises in compliance with WELL Building Standard.
This article covers the main points of the presentation. It explains how to provide a healthy microclimate in the office.
LEED, BREEAM, WELL: Modern Standards of Public Spaces
Today, creation of sustainable offices is a global trend. According to the international consulting company Knight Frank, over the past five years the number of buildings certified according to BREEAM, LEED and DGNB LEED standards rose from 20 to 130 in Russia.
The most «green» spaces keep being offices: 20 objects in Russia are LEED certified. This approach is spreading as employers understand that healthy offices increase motivation and productivity of employees.
BREEAM, LEED and WELL certifications are most popular for public spaces. The first two focus on buildings and the environment, while WELL building standard is human centered.
Green spaces in Russia are mostly offices. Premises owners invest in the design of workspaces and understand that it influences the productivity of employees.
The main differences between public space standards:
A building can receive a certificate of conformity to the standard of public spaces, if it has a necessary score level.
In 2018, we designed the office for Sever Minerals located in the LEED Certified Business Center. We did our best to comply with «green» standards of public spaces in design: used plants, installed lamps with motion sensors and economic faucets to save electricity and water. The result is an eco-friendly and comfortable office.
We used marmoleum as a natural floor covering and decorated the office with plants in pots and wooden planters.
We installed vertical garden modules on wooden lamellas in the corridor. Above the table, you can see decorative lamps that create atmosphere.
Ergonomic chairs in the working area can be easily adjusted. The workplaces are divided by acoustic screens made of sound-absorbing fabric and noise-suppressing filling.
You do not want to keep in mind the standards only — the needs of employees matter too, as their productivity depends on the microclimate in the office. The WELL Building Standard will help you to equip an office with a scrupulous approach to everything from layout to materials and finishing.
The WELL Standard in Offices: 7 Key Aspects
The WELL standard centers around good health and high productivity. The WELL building standard aims at prioritizing human health, so that buildings harm neither nature nor people.
Below, you can see 7 main aspects of a healthy office environment.
Air quality in the office affects employees health. If the ventilation system does not work properly, carbon dioxide accumulates, leading to headaches, distraction and irritability.
Tips for designing an easy-to-breathe place:
- ban smoking,
- install an air filtration system and a humidifier,
- add plants.
If your customers do not want special filtration systems and prefer opening windows for ventilation, warn them that polluted air coming from the street will only worsen the situation.
Open space working area in the Sever Minerals with natural colors and materials, a lot of plants.
Water quality affects the energy and performance of employees throughout the day. People will more likely drink the right amount of water if it is tasty and available.
How to increase your office water consumption:
- provide easy access to water,
- regularly check the quality of drinking water,
- install a water purifier.
Business centers usually install water dispensers, but this has little to do with a healthy office. Dispensers are not always cleaned in time, which lowers the quality of the water. In addition, bottles result in plastic waste.
A good alternative is to install a purifier. Unlike dispensers, purifiers can filter, heat, cool and carbonate tap water. This device is also eco-friendly — no plastic bottles.
A purifier in the kitchen of an IT-company office — a project by DESIGNIC.
Eating healthily will make employees more energetic and focused. The WELL standard implies free access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a ban on soda and energy drinks.
To introduce a culture of proper nutrition:
- regularly deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to the office,
- restrict access to processed food,
- buy quality handwashing products,
- give seminars on nutrition,
- arrange places for eating.
Eating habits are greatly influenced by the place where people eat. Each employee needs easy access to the products they need. It is good if people are not distracted by gadgets while eating — several bookshelves in the dining room can help.
Another way to introduce healthy eating habits is to install healthy food vending machines to help employees stick to their diet.
Next to the kitchen area in the office of the IT company, you can see bookshelves that help to distract from gadgets and read while eating.
Opposite the bookshelves, there are built-in sofas with tables where you can relax and read books during lunch.
The WELL standard demands high-quality lighting for better concentration, good mood and stable emotional background.
Insufficient, poor-quality or excessive lighting worsens health. To keep employees in good shape, think carefully about both natural and artificial lighting.
- provide maximum natural light — move bulky furniture that blocks sunlight away from windows,
- change flickering lamps,
- provide general and individual lighting in working areas.
In our WELL standard projects, we pay attention to lighting: calculate the level of illumination, think about different lighting scenarios.
Installing light sensors in the office that regulate the intensity of artificial light is a good idea.
Lighting scenarios in the meeting room for the Kassir.ru project. In the first photo, the light falls on the conference table, the area for project presentation and discussion. In the second photo, only the presentation area is highlighted to draw attention to the speaker.
Active employees are much healthier, more energetic, and more productive than their colleagues with sedentary lifestyle. To encourage your employees to love sport and move more:
- equip an open staircase for employees to sit down and work on it or climb to the upper floor,
- put a shower cabin,
- arrange a storage/parking place for bicycles,
- prioritize adjustable workplaces so that employees can work both sitting and standing,
- equip a fitness room or at least a sports space.
Stairs in the office will motivate to move more, showers will encourage riding a bicycle to work. You can also organize the workplaces so that employees have to get up more often to drink water or chat with colleagues.
In IT company Fortis online, we equipped an activity zone where you can warm up or play football.
A large modern office is full of noise from equipment, phone calls, and the voices of employees. Such atmosphere tires and irritates. To reduce the level of noise, arrange the premises properly:
- use sound-absorbing finishing materials,
- separate areas with acoustic screens,
- choose sound-absorbing textiles, and furniture with fabric upholstery,
- organize «silent zones» — acoustic booths and meeting rooms where you can focus on a task or chat with a client.
If you take care of all the details, the office will not make people feel like escaping from it at the end of the working day.
In the Sever Minerals office, we created an area for informal communication with a table for chatting with colleagues, a booth for telephone conversations, and felt wallpaper that absorb noise.
A comfortable office microclimate is important for employee efficiency and productivity as much as other factors. A person’s thermal sensations depend on the body temperature balance. We cannot influence individual factors, but we do can influence the external factors.
To provide thermal comfort in the office:
- properly zone the office, otherwise, it can be too cool in a large open space, and too hot in the cabinets,
- use climate control,
- monitor the microclimate in the office — install ventilation and air conditioning systems, control humidity levels.
Designing an office that meets the WELL standard, all these parameters are critical. If a person constantly fidgets in his chair, sweats, or feels cold, they will not be able to work productively.
In Kassir.ru, air conditioners and ducts are installed on the ceiling.
Where employees want to work
When arranging premises, think over the layout and design first and try to create the most convenient workplace. Employees willingness to come to the office defines if they will work there efficiently.
People used to consider the office as a working place only, but now the office has become a place employees feel at home. What’s more, just a beautiful office” is not enough anymore — employees want comfort. Flexible eco-spaces with areas for communication, meetings and sports are in high demand.
The WELL Building Standard will help you to equip an office with a scrupulous approach to everything from the proper workplace arrangement to the furnishing. In such an office people will work efficiently and get tired less.