The UK – Green Building Council Wellbeing Lab

It is a well discussed concept, with no end of anecdotal reasons for addressing key issues such as indoor environmental quality and occupant wellbeing. However, the lack of empirical data about the impact of different design interventions means informed decisions by designers are often difficult.

For this reason, Greengage welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the UK-GBC’s Wellbeing Lab programme which ran for 7 months until spring 2017.

The Wellbeing Lab focused on knowledge exchange between industry professionals to help improve measurement and implementation of best practice health, wellbeing, and productivity principles. Eleven different participant teams including developers, occupiers, consultants, architects and engineers brought projects to the programme. We each used our own office premises to test how a range of measurement, monitoring and subsequent actions can be implemented in the ‘real world’.

The work was undertaken following the World Green Building Council’s Offices Framework, which provided a process to collect environmental, perception and organisational data linked to health and wellbeing. The concept being that through improving the indoor environment and responding to how occupants feel about their office space, the organisational outcomes will result in benefits such as reduced absenteeism, reduced medical complaints and higher productivity and retention of staff.

The project consisted of four face to face workshops involving all participants where projects were discussed, common challenges identified and appropriate solutions considered. These were great forums to receive expert advice, provide advice to others and candidly discuss barriers and frustrations in a non-competitive environment. In between the workshops we went away to collect and analyse data and work with our organisations to take action on the findings.

Greengage were in a unique position to explore how to best implement the framework in a smaller shared office space. Observations from the Lab will inform the decision-making process of deciding on a new physical environment as the company grows and we eventually seek new office space. In the mean time it has also led to a number of simple to implement improvements to the existing office space.

We conducted physical data monitoring, including air quality and temperature. This showed that:

  • Overall indoor environmental quality was very good.
  • We did detect that there was a cycle, as air quality tended to deteriorate around mid-day. This is consistent with measurements of other offices.
  • The recorded temperature in the office was within acceptable ranges.

We also conducted a wellbeing survey of our employees, which showed overall satisfaction with the office space, but raised concerns that should be further investigated. For example, the provision of more private meeting spaces, and control of heat and lighting. One of the key findings was that for factors such as temperature, people’s perceptions were often at odds with what the physical data showed. The process was really well received by our employees, and in keeping with the findings of other participants of the Lab, it is natural that everyone wants to be healthier and happier.

We have since continued the agenda by:

  • Organising a targeted workshop with our employees to share the survey and monitoring results. At this forum employees discussed and agreed potential actions to improve wellbeing in the office.
  • Developing a system to collect organisational data more effectively, and implementing a cyclical process of perceptual data collection with a follow up survey. By measuring data at different points throughout the year, we can look at trends over time and identify any seasonality in impacts.

Ultimately this process has allowed us to test robust approaches to measuring and improving health and wellbeing within office buildings amongst an expert peer group. We can use the significant knowledge gained to better inform our clients on addressing similar issues, whether that is in buildings they are designing or occupying.