“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” – Winston Churchill.
Do we know that people spend more than 90% of their lives indoors? And if we are spending more time indoors, then it is evident that our workplaces have a significant ability to influence our overall health and wellbeing.
As building professionals, how we design, build, and operate our buildings can make a difference for millions of people. According to the WELL building institute, “we must invest in people for a higher return of investment” in terms of business value.
Over the last 20 years, the industry has changed significantly, and more people are now working in offices, meaning that it is more important that employees have a healthy office to work at. Some studies show that more restorative offices with better air quality make people sharper and brighter. The ongoing pandemic has forced businesses and companies to consider how crucial it is to invest in people and the environment.
Additionally, we are burdened with a real problem regarding poor air quality in our external environment. So, it becomes much more crucial to have our indoors which can serve us with better air quality.
The buildings thus play a crucial role in the spread of disease. If the facilities are operated smartly, they can also help us fight against it. As we prepare for the new normal, we need to evaluate our buildings and indoor environment’s impact on our health and wellbeing. The best part is that we don’t have to undergo an extensive renovation or construct a new building to incorporate healthy workplaces.
Some of the things which are easily doable, and which can make a significant impact. These include the following measures:
1. Air Quality
• Assess the ventilation and fresh air intake as per ASHRAE standards.
• Assess and maintain air treatment systems, change filters regularly, upgrade to MERV 13 or above, and have carbon filters.
• Test and monitor air quality, its particle count & CO2 levels.
• Integrate live plants throughout the space.
• Promote a smoking-free environment.
2. Water Quality
• Test and monitor water quality
• Maintain treatment systems and change filters regularly
• Apply water conservation strategies such as Low flow indoor plumbing fixtures such as faucets and showerheads.
• Reduce surface contact (e.g., foot grabs for doors, etc.).
• Improve cleaning practices and product selection using nontoxic and green products.
• Coating high touch surfaces (countertops, handles, doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, etc.) for antimicrobial activity.
• Indoor garbage cans having lids and hands-free operation and Pest reduction measures.
• Encourage movement throughout the workplace and exercise on breaks
• Change posture to stand/sit at workstations.
• Using public transport/walking/biking to workplaces.
• Using staircase instead of lifts and escalators.
• Bring as much natural light as possible and providing shading for natural daylight for glare control.
• Set temperate within the comfort zone of 23 to 27 degrees and relative humidity as 40 to 60%.
• Assess sound travel and add acoustic panels wherever needed and are easily integrated.
• Companies are providing local, organic, whole food with nutritional information.
• Provide storage/heating for healthy home-packed lunch.
• Provide communal garden space for herbs and vegetables.
7. Enhancing employee experience
• Adding artwork, color, and texture to stimulate mental health
• Choose the right kind of biophilic elements which can increase people’s connectivity to the natural environment.
Providing employees with an efficient and comfortable work environment helps create a healthy building that will foster creativity, increase engagement and collaboration, and inspire employees to be their best. A workplace strategy that combines sustainable practices with wellness-driven concepts thus becomes paramount.
As building professionals, we have a responsibility to integrate sustainable solutions to our design and construction practices which can improve public health and wellbeing and at the same time add value-added services for our clients.
By Bharat Tagra, Director – Project Management, Colliers India
Bharat is responsible for leading the fit-out project management business for North & East India as a part of Occupier services.
With over 19 years of experience operating in a fast paced, always demanding and ever – changing environment of commercial sector, Bharat has demonstrated as a clear thinker and having an ability to remain calm and consistent under pressure.
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