The WELL Building Standard: Working For Comfort
When designing residential interiors for our clients we strive to provide them with a space of the utmost comfort for their individual needs and we can all relate to having our own home comforts, however small or specific. But what about comfort in our working environments? Considering the large amount of time workers now spend in their workplaces, the need for comfortable working should be a priority.
The WELL Building Standard has highlighted the need for careful consideration of comfort within the workplace and targets the way in which buildings can foster occupant health and performance. WELL links good office design to prosperity because the enhanced comfort of employees directly impacts on positive health and wellness in the workforce, which in turn improves positivity, productivity and work performance. The most common causes of physiological disruption and irritation are reduced by these standards, which in turn enhance acoustic, ergonomic and thermal comfort.
The WELL Building Standard focuses on our working needs in regard to comfort but many of these ideas can also be applied to our home lives. Below are the main features of this concept:
Ergonomics & Universal Design
Ergonomics play an important role in mitigating physical and mental stress whilst helping to facilitate comfort and well-being. In the US work related musculoskeletal disorders result in over $2.5 billion in medical and other costs, including lost productivity; in addition, musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for 7% of disability-adjusted life years worldwide. WELL addresses musculoskeletal health through ergonomic furniture including adjustable computer screens and chairs and desks that can alternate between a sitting and standing position. Accessible design is also guaranteed for people with limited mobility creating navigable spaces for all.
Distracting noise can be very frustrating in the workplace and contributes up to a 66% decline in performance with both exterior and interior noise distractions hugely impacting on the working environment. While noise, of course, exists everywhere good design can be used to attempt to limit noise pollution and its negative effects on employees. In urban areas flight and road traffic noises have been associated with higher instances of diabetes, heart attacks and hypertension. The Comfort concept of the WELL Standard aims to place a limit on the levels of noise emanating from outside of the building whilst also considering the inner workings of the environment to limit internal noise generation. Within an office environment the noise from electronic equipment along with noise generated by colleagues, particularly in open and shared space environments lead to reduced concentration and efficiency. Acoustic plans allow for loud and quiet zones and areas with more privacy for discussions needed without interruption and noise from office equipment has set limits.
High levels of reverberation in buildings result in sounds taking much longer to dissipate, which contribute to the increased overall ambient noise. Sound absorbing materials incorporated into the design such as wall panels and ceiling baffles can be used to limit the reverberation, creating a quieter more relaxing environment. In quiet working spaces sound masking can also be employed to limit the interruption of loud overheard conversations and increase the privacy of those speaking. Sound barriers such as interior doors and interior wall partitions can also be instigated to limit sound transmission between spaces.
Thermal comfort preferences are highly personal and can be affected by many things including metabolism, body type and clothing. The differences in preference of each individual make it nearly impossible to find the perfect temperature that will satisfy all occupants at the same time. The WELL standard requires spaces to vary in temperature and gives those working there the flexibility to choose a working area that they are most comfortable in. Radiant thermal comfort can also be employed in buildings to achieve balance between occupant comfort and energy efficiency by separating temperature controls and fresh air supply systems.
Strong smells in a building can considerably affect an individuals experience within the environment and excessively strong odors such as fragrances, chemicals and hot food can even trigger physical irritations and headaches. WELL recommends addressing these issues by limiting the migration of strong smells from their source through such methods as negative pressurization, hallways and self-closing doors.
Thought and attention to the basic comforts of our working environment seem like such an obvious endeavor. However even small disruptions to the ergonomics, acoustics, thermal control and olfactory comfort in work spaces can add up to impacting on the productivity and well-being of the workforce. By implementing the WELL Building Standard in a working environment businesses can see great increases in the productivity of their staff and by safeguarding staff well-being they can achieve better results. Many of these ideas within the Comfort concept can be adapted for homes to ensure that you are at your most comfortable in your own environment.
Feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco conscious interior design consultants.