A core purpose for architects and interior designers is to consider how commercial buildings impact not just on the environment but also on health and wellness.
In response to this, manufacturers and product designers are creating products that answer these demands, in terms of how things are made (process, and by whom under what conditions) and materials used (sustainable and not detrimental to health).
WHAT IS WELLNESS?
As opposed to “health” – the management of chronic illness – wellness encompasses aspects of our human condition that allow us to thrive, including how we flourish financially, physically, mentally, in our careers and within our communities.
The Mental Health Foundation NZ (MHFNZ) defines wellbeing as meaning we have, “the tools, support and environments we need to be who we are and to build and sustain lives worth living”.
A commonly used model to conceptualise well-being in Aotearoa New Zealand is Te Whare Tapa Whā, which conceptualises well-being as a wharenui, or large meeting house. Its foundations are the whenua (land), or one’s connection to the land and environment, including not just the physical environment, but the social one.
WHAT ARE SOME KEY STEPS TO IMPROVING OVERALL WELLNESS?
- Lifestyle – including diet, exercise and quality sleep.
- Connection with others.
- Connection with Nature.
- Optimism, gratitude and resilience.
- Having purpose and helping others.
HOW CAN WORKPLACE DESIGN IMPACT WELLNESS?
We are expected to live 6-8 years longer than our parent’s generation.
That means we will be working longer even if solely out of financial necessity; a 70,000-hour career could easily become an 85,000-hour career, longer time spent in the workplace over our lifetimes than ever before.
As wellness encompasses financial, physical, mental, career and community, we can see that the workplace is a major contributor to all these factors.
A human-centric interior design can:
- Offer an optimal physical environment, for example acoustically, thermally and in terms of light
- Cater to diversity
- Make wayfinding easy and stress-free
- Encourage connection and collaboration
- Encourage movement
- Make connections with nature
HOW DO WE MEASURE WELLNESS IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT?
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) was established by USA company Delos seeking to improve health and well-being through the built environment and organisational strategies.
IWBI launched the WELL Building Standard in 2014 (Revised in 2018 to include organisational protocols) which is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment impacting on human health, well-being and performance.
The connection between environment and well-being is based on medical research and WELL Certification requires adherence to multiple benchmarks.
The WELL standards can enhance our Green Star building ratings that focus on indoor environment quality. The Green Building Council of Australia (to which our NZGBC is tied) and IWBI work collaboratively to promote wellness – and health – in people-centric design, construction and ongoing operation of buildings.
HOW CAN CARPETS ASSIST IN WELL CERTIFICATION?
There are 4 levels of WELL certification: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
There are ten WELL concepts that contribute to certification.
The most relevant to carpets are:
- Air quality – for example, low VOCs, moderating ambient humidity
- Lighting – light reflectance for comfort and to support circadian rhythms for healthy sleep
- Thermal – assisting to maintain comfortable interior temperatures, for example through the insulation of the floor substrate
- Acoustic – comfortable sound levels from reverberation and foot-fall adding to ease of performance of a space acoustically, reducing stress
- Materials – beyond toxicity, considering our long-term wellness in terms of sustainability
In New Zealand there are 30 WELL Certified projects, notably 2 Platinum-certified projects, Meredith Connell & 2 Degrees in Auckland.
Colliers have multiple WELL Certified offices around New Zealand.
MORE WAYS TO WELLNESS
The pleasure of experiencing a space is less quantifiable, as the human experience is individual and diverse.
Scientific research tells us that connection to nature is vital to our mental well-being, and of course, is a key principle of biophilic (nature-based) design. Carpet colour, pattern and texture can assist mental well-being by mimicking the positive effects we feel in nature.
Colour psychology should influence colour choices that support the human experience. Greens, blues and purples are ideal for well-being, fostering calm and creativity. Nature’s tones are linked to well-being as we know from biophilia. Pops of vibrant colour are well suited to stimulate energy, for example in collaborative meeting zones.
Creating spaces that are ‘legible’ is also stress-reducing. Using varied colours, textures and/or patterns to delineate zones and assist in way-finding is easily done with carpet tiles that are designed to coordinate and complement.
Designers of workplaces also acknowledge how much time we spend there, often leaning into creating spaces with more relaxed comfort, using textures more commonly associated with home and luxury. Using cut-pile carpets is a nod to a home environment, bringing a more familiar, plush feel underfoot as well as the visual softness we associate with a residential aesthetic.
Given the area flooring covers in any fit-out, carpet is one of the key contributors to the health of a space and therefore the well-being of the occupants. It also has a truly significant impact on the sustainability of a project. Choose wisely for a well future.
Duncan Young of Lend Lease https://archipro.academy/ace-duncan-young