Atkins has launched a tool that will help architects put people’s wellbeing at the heart of good building design
Research shows that nearly half of UK employees don’t like their working environment, and 89% of people say the work environment plays a major part in whether or not they take a job. Design and engineering consultancy Atkins has launched a tool called Wellbriefing that will help architects and organisations put people’s wellbeing at the heart of building design, creating happier, healthier environments that help attract and retain staff, consumers, residents and students.
With Wellbriefing, data is captured from the end users of a building on their preferences and priorities for their own health and wellbeing. By mapping this data against various design criteria, Atkins’ designers can determine how effective a design will be in improving end users’ health and wellbeing, and create a brief for the design of the building that ensures people have the best work, living and learning environments.
“There is a strong business case for wellbeing,” said Philip Watson, UK design director at Atkins. “People spend on average 90% of their lives in buildings, and these environments significantly impact their health and wellbeing, and ultimately their productivity and performance. It’s been proven that healthier and happier people are more productive. They not only take less sick leave, but they are able to concentrate and learn better, problem solve, and be more creative.”
For companies, there’s a real financial, as well as a people, benefit. On average 90% of a company’s operating costs are staff costs. So, if we can improve staff performance by even a small amount, we can improve a company's fortunes significantly. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) found that mental health problems cost UK employers £26bn every year. In addition, studies have shown that increasing students’ health and wellbeing could increase their performance results by as much as 20%.
The Wellbriefing tool will help organisations take a more active approach to improving their end users’ wellbeing, ensuring they consider it from the outset rather than after health and productivity problems arise. Atkins’ architects and engineers are involved throughout the Wellbriefing process, so that wellbeing is incorporated from concept design through to construction and ongoing maintenance. The Wellbriefing tool is already being used for the design of new buildings at the University of Glasgow and Bournemouth University.
Caroline Paradise, head of design research at Atkins, said: “Wellbriefing focuses on nine interconnected physical and psychological aspects that impact our wellbeing. The physical parameters tend to be more tangible, and easier to define and measure such as light, temperature and air quality. The aspects of building design that have an impact on our psychological or mental wellbeing – such as flexibility, connection to nature and a sense of ownership or belonging – are less definitive, but can be just as significant. Wellbriefing will help ensure that people and their wellbeing are at the heart of design decisions. The hope is that by considering wellbeing from the outset of a project, we’ll end up with a healthier, more productive society.”
The impact of the nine physical and perceptual aspects considered in the Wellbriefing process include:
- 66% drop in performance when exposed to distracting sounds (Banbury SP. and Berry DC. 1998)
- Heart rate reduces 1.6 times faster in a space with a window or a nature view (Kahn, 2008)
- Increased levels of CO2 decrease power of attention by approx. 5% (Cooley and Greeves, 2004)
- Studies have linked improved air quality with up to 11% gains in productivity (Loftness V. Hartkopf V. and Gurtekin B. (2003)
- Changing colour of light throughout the day has a direct link to physiological response such as heart rate and the circadian system therefore alertness, sleep quality, depression (Kandel et al, 2013)
- Vertical illuminance is as important as horizontal but can be up to 60% less than illuminance on a horizontal plane. (Paradise 2015)
- Natural sounds can support physiological and psychological restoration effect up to 37% faster than urban or office noise. (Alvarsson et al, 2010)
- Separation by more than 30m can be equivalent to being in a different building (Allen 1971)
To find out more watch our video or visit www.wellbriefing.com.