Last week, Urban Green got an up-close-and-personal look at the JLL office in Lower Manhattan. The tour was the first in a three-part series, WELL(ness) at Work, which highlights office spaces that have achieved certification from the International WELL Building Institute. Urban Green Board member Dana Schneider, the managing director of JLL's Energy and Sustainability Projects in the Northeast, led a tour through the space.
Making the Business Case
Schneider began the conversation by highlighting the necessity of making a business case for achieving certification. However, unlike most of the projects delivered by Schneider and her team, a concern for human health and wellness presented a departure from the usual hard facts and figures of building science.
While payback from WELL Certification may seem less visible than something like air sealing a window, JLL appreciates the very real-life benefits of a healthy workspace, employee satisfaction and, ultimately, worker retention and productivity. Even a 1 percent increase in worker productivity can yield significant returns, which helped make the case for WELL. With this in mind, the JLL team dove into the process and emerged as one of the first to achieve WELL Silver in New York City.
There are seven categories—known as “concepts”—in which a space can score points to achieve a Silver, Gold or Platinum rating. For JLL, some of these concepts were more easily fulfilled than others. For Air, the team chose to install purification technology, which is costlier than carbon filtration but was found to have a better return on investment. Fitness required the company’s HR team to find appropriate ways to incentivize healthy living inside and outside of the office. Some of the actions derived from this interdepartmental collaboration were: gym cost deferment options, Wednesday yoga classes and free Citi Bike memberships.
Their work under Light is the most palpable. With the perimeter of the office mostly bound by wide-open windows, natural light poured into the space and touched every workstation. In addition to maximizing daylighting, JLL installed adjustable task lights, color and occupancy sensors, and daylight controls. The only concept that Schneider remarked as surprisingly difficult to achieve was Comfort. The noise level of the space failed inspection twice, despite the fact that it was imperceptible to those working in the office. To tackle this, JLL installed an internally generated white noise system and soundproofed the walls (which also added an aesthetic charm to the office).
WELL and LEED
Since JLL pursued LEED and WELL Certification concurrently, tour attendees were curious about the interplay between the two systems. The requirements are not as similar as some may think--overlap falls in the range of 10-15 percent—mainly because LEED’s Indoor Air Quality requirements parallel WELL’s Air concept. In addition to the differences between the two systems on paper, the ways in which they are scored and tested also diverge. Schneider said that for JLL, WELL required more rigorous testing and work on the back end to ensure compliance. Finally, Schneider believes that many of the WELL concepts are easier for tenants to implement compared to LEED, which is driven by base building performance requirements. For now, the building community can look to companies like JLL to affirm that both certifications are simultaneously achievable and can yield real-life benefits in the workplace.
To learn more about JLL’s path to certification, join Urban Green on June 29 for our WELL(ness) at Work discussion panel at COOKFOX Architects.