We’re talking the WELL Standard, double-acted by Victoria Lockhart and Sarah Welton of the International WELL Building Institute. We’re crisp, clean and articulate, we’re being told a story.
The premise is that we construct our buildings to support our health. Being inactive is the fourth highest cause of mortality, bringing us diabetes cancers of various types and heart disease. It’s a quiet, underlying message that has been rather kidnapped by the sit-stand desk, which is just on small contribution, but design for mobility in the workplace is one of the most significant contributions as designers we can make.
Sarah is adamant that WELL is for people: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. It’s not just about building design, it’s awarded for operation too. That said it’s not a replacement for green and sustainable building design – it’s in addition. The WELL Crosswalk publication showed how WELL and BREEAM can work in tandem. Whether we actually need both is a debateable point, integration is surely an inevitability. The Mind part is the toughest proposition – environments that optimises cognitive performance. No surprises then the first question asked was in this area. Having looked at this in some detail, it’s a tricky proposition.
Just to confuse matters further there is the initiative to align WELL and GIGA’s RESET schemes. You have some homework from this section.
If it sounds like another Standard that will require you to pay for experts to, of course it is. It’s how the industry works. We are told that for smaller projects it’s a ‘manageable’ sum – whatever that means. This is of course not a sales pitch. It’s not. Really. There is more on costs below.
Alan Forgarty is talking about Cundall’s workspace at One Carter Lane which was the first in Europe to be WELL certified. Alan tells us that it isn’t about collecting pieces of paper. Having said that we’ve heard a lot about the piece of paper they’ve collected.
Alan quotes some UK Green Building Council claims to specific percentage point increases in productivity from certain building environment improvements, which is quite a revelation as clearly they found the Holy Grail we’ve all spent decades searching for. Remarkable, if not spurious.
For a 1,500m2 space it was £30,780 to assess. That’s barely £20/m2 so it’s not expensive. Possibly unsurprisingly though, I’m going to offer that WELL is all a little over-inflated, that the proposition is a simple one that we’ve complicated our way into a Standard that we need experts for because can’t assess ourselves. I continually return to the refreshing simplicity of the elemental. There are no aspects of WELL that stagger with insight, that tell us something we don’t instinctively know if we could just trust ourselves a little more.
But we’ve seen before that we value the pieces of paper. If it improves the quality of workspace for people, and we’re prepared to pay for it, there I no complaint. But we have to reach those who haven’t got £20/m2.
Anicee Bauer and Coen van Dijck of D/DOCK in the Netherlands want to create environments that make you happy. Nothing stirs a workplace audience to murmur like pictures of old workplaces, filing cabinets and greige. Then we eat burgers, disengage, get stressed and die, all very Hobbesian. The solution is ABW with a healthy overlay – the Healing Office. They see multiple layers to the office onion, the last of which catches the eye when desperate for a green tea, the magic and spiritual level. Sadly it’s just a slide with a nice sunset over standing stones.
D/DOCK have a methodology inspired by WELL, called D/Science Interior Quality Index (DIQI). It’s a score out of 100, and you’ll need D/DOCK to do this for you, another scheme you can’t asses for yourself. The research areas are frighteningly extensive.
We’re trying to do the right thing for people with all of these approaches, but we just seem to be over complicating it. Connecting this afternoon’s sessions with this morning, there is an irony in the fact that we are creating the most circuitous and difficult routes back to re-establishing our connection with the simplicity of nature. Finding our way home should be simple too.