Reflecting back to heady pre-pandemic days of busy cities and offices humming with activity and chatter, it was around late 2018 when we started planning our first fit-out project to target WELL Certified by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).
WELL Certified is the world’s premier accreditation which focuses on enhancing people’s health and well-being through the buildings where they live, work and play, and is the result of seven years of rigorous research and development working with leading physicians, scientists, and industry professionals.
The standard is a performance-based certification which marries best practice in design and construction with scientific research, and covers seven categories of performance, including air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind.
We wanted to push ourselves to see how we could deliver a project that considered all aspects of sustainability, so Project Green (for obvious reasons) was born as we prepared to move to new 25,000 sq ft offices in Edinburgh’s Capital Square.
Our approach to workplace design was always people-centric, especially knowing that lawyers like to spend a lot of time at work, yet this was an opportunity to see how we could up the ante, and deliver a workplace that enhances wellbeing – and productivity.
Unbeknownst to us all, a virus was lurking, ready to make the leap into humankind and kick-start its own notoriety. Thinking that any fit-out project would all go completely to plan would be optimistic to say the least and by the time we were fully certified Gold in June 2022, we had seen the global pandemic shut down construction across Scotland, lock ourselves down at home (several times) and drastically change the way we work, with many stop/start return to office attempts.
Clearly this was not without a few stresses and sleepless nights (slightly ironic when delivering a project primarily focused on wellbeing) – yet despite all that, we achieved what we set out to do.
Although it was obviously important at the beginning for us to deliver a workplace with a true focus on health and wellness, it became even more vital for the post-pandemic world. This is why we remained determined, although the road there was winding and not without its bumps. The WELL Certified criteria is onerous, but it has to be in order to create a workplace truly providing a holistic approach to wellbeing that can be monitored and measured.
The tangible benefits are easily seen, whether it is the biophilia, from design elements to actual living plants, the Circadian lighting scheme that changes from blue to yellow light reflecting the rhythms of the natural world, and the enhanced air quality, through to the thoughtful touches of organic produce served in the café, free yoga classes each week, and dedicated spaces for wellbeing, relaxation and even fun.
Importantly, feedback from our people has been amazing and we have seen a sustained positive uplift in office occupancy, which we call ‘the WELL effect’.
Luke Richards is Head of Facilities, UK & Ireland, Pinsent Masons