By Marloes Reinink, Solid Green Consulting

With initiatives such as the Living Building Challenge and the Well Building Standard setting new standards globally, building owners and tenants are demanding interiors that contribute towards increased productivity and improved quality of life for all building occupants.
We spend about 90% of our time indoors, either at work in our offices or at our homes, so it is only logical that we should focus more on how these indoor spaces can support our healthy living, both physiologically and psychologically. This approach integrates work with life, incorporating activity-based design together with environmental considerations in buildings that strive to make the most of natural resources such as daylighting, natural ventilation and biophilia.

It’s in the design
Healthy spaces are largely dependent on a number of design inclusions that address improvement of the indoor environmental quality (IEQ), including daylight, fresh air, thermal comfort and views.

The quality of spaces is further dramatically improved by incorporating biophilia, which works on the premise that humans have an innate attraction to nature. Connecting with nature reduces stress, enhances creativity and improves well-being. Environmental features can be expressed through colour, water, air, sunlight, plants and views.

The benefits are real
Research suggests that workers in office environments with natural elements:
•    Have a 15% higher level of well-being.
•    Are 6% more productive.
•    Are 15% more creative.

Talking money
In terms of the business case, it makes absolute sense for developers and building owners to provide tenants with green and healthy spaces because rentals and occupancy rates are higher.

And, from the tenant’s perspective, the business case is even more compelling. If we look at a breakdown of the expenses of an average company, 90% are staff costs (salaries and benefits), 9% rental cost, and just 1% energy costs. So, spending R1 million to create a space that makes a 1% difference in staff productivity has a far greater economic benefit than spending R1 million to save 50% of your energy cost.

Personal experience
It’s important to note that addressing health and well-being from the outset will result in a far more cost-effective design and fit-out process. In refurbishing Solid Green’s own offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg, our primary requirement was for a space where our staff can thrive and enjoy what they are doing. Our offices are filled with natural daylight and natural ventilation, and incorporate elements of biophilic design, all critical elements to a healthy indoor environment.

We were rewarded for our efforts with the first six-star Green Star SA Interiors v1 certification in the country, a LEED Platinum certification for commercial interiors, and the award for the highest rated building category at the Green Star SA Leadership Awards at the Green Building Council of South Africa’s (GBCSA’s) Green Building Convention in 2016.

As we move towards more conscious design choices, it makes absolute sense that, if we design with people’s health and well-being in mind, green will follow suit!

Solid Green Consulting
Tel: 011 447 2797
Website: www.solidgreen.co.za

Caption main image: To brighten up the Solid Green workspace, reclaimed desks from a refurbishment by Anglo were painted green.

Marloes Reinink of Solid Green Consulting. Courtesy of Asset Mag