COOKFOX Walks the Walk, and They Walk It WELL

Last week, for the second installation of the three-part WELL(ness) at Work series, Urban Green toured the stunning COOKFOX office—a firm renowned for their environmentally responsive designs. COOKFOX is a prime example of practicing what you preach: the convergence of human health, sustainability and smart design are exemplified in their workspace, earning the firm WELL Gold and LEED Platinum certifications.

WELL Certification

WELL Certification is a dynamic performance-based standard intended to improve human health and overall wellness within the built environment. WELL buildings aim to increase employee productivity, engagement and retention. While all seven WELL concepts—Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind—are seen throughout the space, the design highlights two main components: Nourishment and Mind.

Biophilic Design

Inspired by the idea of biophilic design—that inhabitants have an innate connection to the natural world and that their health and happiness improves when surrounded by nature—it was important to the architecture firm to incorporate biophilic elements throughout their workspace. Upon entering COOKFOX’s office, these natural elements are immediately apparent. The tour—guided by COOKFOX’s Director of Communications, Jared Gilbert, and Zach Craun, who administered the WELL Certification—began in the office foyer, where a sequence of large terrariums led us through the entrance hallway and into the central office space.

The most stunning feature of the space are the two terraces that bookend the office. Yes, you heard correctly: there are two terraces. The first one houses wildflowers, an apiary, an edible garden and a compost bin that is used to create mulch for their gardens. Gilbert explained that there are committees that tend to the gardens and keep the bees, a tradition that has become a part of the firm’s office culture. Strawberries are being grown atop the apiary, while corn, herbs and leafy greens sprout on the far side of the terrace. Employees are encouraged to enjoy the vegetables that they cultivate, which of course hits the mark for WELL’s Nourishment category. The second terrace provides breathtaking views of the city and plenty of seating, so staff can enjoy lunch or host meetings outside—which, of course, ties into the Mind concept.

COOKFOX’s skillful incorporation of biophilic design is seen even in the pattern of the carpet, which was designed to mimic a forest floor. Gilbert jokingly mentioned that their first choice was to install an actual forest floor, but it didn’t seem realistic. To support an office culture that celebrates nature, employees are even given a plant stipend to purchase plants to surround their “pods,” or office workspaces.

WELL Concepts at Work

To tackle the Light concept, the space maximizes abundant sunlight that streams in through the windows. If sunlight is not sufficient, daylight sensors adjust the interior lighting accordingly. The Air concept was addressed by installing sensors that monitor air quality. Pollution levels can easily be checked through a handy application that employees can download on their phones. Fitness was tackled by installing a shower to encourage alternative commuting methods, such as biking, running and walking.

The notion of including natural elements within work spaces in the heart of New York City may seem counterintuitive on several levels, yet COOKFOX executed their vision expertly. COOKFOX has long been at the forefront of sustainable design and continues to push the envelope, deftly creating a thriving, productive and healthy work environment.

Join us on Thursday, June 29 at COOKFOX for the third installation of our WELL(ness) at Work series. This final session will feature a panel discussion with architects, project managers, and contractors on the unique paths to attain WELL Certification.

About the authors

Lindsay Cherry
Cherry is a Policy Intern at Urban Green.