On June 29, the third segment of Urban Green’s WELL(ness) at Work series was held in the recently WELL Certified office of COOKFOX Architects. In the final installation of the series, a panel of experts openly discussed their respective companies’ experiences and unique paths to achieving WELL Certification.
WELL CONCEPTS & CERTIFICATION
WELL was born out of the idea that our physical environment influences every aspect of our lives. According to the EPA, a staggering 90 percent of our time is spent indoors. The CDC reports that four primary components determine a person’s mental health: lifestyle; medical care; genetics; and lastly, our physical and social environment—which affects mental health the most. With this in mind, scientific, medical and building experts developed seven categories—referred to as ‘concepts’—necessary to achieve WELL Certification: Air, Water, Light, Nourishment, Mind, Comfort and Fitness. The standard permits flexibility, allowing companies to follow different, unique pathways depending on the company’s interests and priorities.
THE PURSUIT OF WELL
Jennifer Taranto (Structure Tone), Dana Schneider (JLL) and Zach Craun (COOKFOX) came together on a panel moderated by the WELL Building Institute to discuss their unique pathways to certification, as well as the troubles and successes they met along the way. While COOKFOX is an architecture firm, Structure Tone is a global construction management company and JLL provides commercial real estate services, all three work in the building industry and pursued WELL Certification in order to provide a living, working example of what WELL looks like in action.
COOKFOX has long been a champion and leader of sustainability in the built environment. Their previous office space was the first LEED Platinum certified space in New York State. When designing their new office, it was important to not only maintain LEED Certification, but also go one step further and pursue WELL. COOKFOX became the first in New York City to achieve WELL Gold, the second-highest level of certification. Craun summarized his thoughts on the differences between the two: if LEED is for buildings, then WELL is intended for people, together creating a holistically healthy, sustainable environment. Biophilic or natural design elements are prominently featured throughout the office, and speak to the concept of Mind. One of the two terraces in the space is used to grow food, helping to check the Nourishment category.
Explaining why it was especially important for Structure Tone to focus on the mental health of their staff, Taranto noted that when they moved offices, they lost approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of floor space. Downsizing made it more important for them to utilize their space wisely and create a health-centric environment for their employees. The materials used in the space were important to the design, and they incorporated biophilic elements with wood paneling and wood floors to achieve the Mind concept. To address Nourishment, Structure Tone has a grab-and-go kiosk filled with healthy snacks, which they subsidize for their employees.
Schneider’s enthusiasm for WELL radiated as she proudly discussed JLL’s attainment of WELL Silver. Nourishment was achieved by providing healthy snacks for employees, while Fitness was attained in several ways, such as hosting yoga classes in the office and providing Citi Bike memberships and discounted gym memberships. Schneider acknowledged that there are skeptics of WELL, but that the ideas behind each of the seven concepts are substantiated with scientific evidence. She also noted that, above all, it’s about valuing employees and creating a better work environment, which in turn helps the company retain talent.
WELL WORTH IT
JLL and COOKFOX estimated that implementing WELL concepts cost them approximately 5 percent of their total construction cost, while Structure Tone estimated it at 0.66 percent of their total cost, or $0.99 per person per day. And while all three companies achieved certification using different pathways, they agreed that their investment in WELL was well worth it.