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How can a mat, a wastebasket, or a door handle influence your office’s air quality?

Skanska May 22, 2018  |  Text by Lukáš Rozmajzl Text by Lukáš Rozmajzl

“Make sure to breathe right!” That sentence is the first thing most of us hear when entering this world, although it’s more for our mothers than for us. Modern offices, as “incubators,” take this command to heart and try to offer their occupants higher-quality air than what’s out beyond the glass facade. (Another maternity command — “Squeeze!” — is respected more than well enough by your boss...)

Meet Floyd. He might seem a little strange, but he’s a top-rate designer whom all the multinationals want to lure in. And since he could choose, he chose. Based not only on the brand of Arabica by the coffee machine, but also on the quality of the work environment.

Floyd has strong allergies that make him very sensitive to air pollution. (And in fact, the World Health Organization reports 7 million deaths a year to air pollutants — on average that’s 13 deaths per minute!)

That’s why Floyd ultimately decided to start pumping out ideas at a company whose office building meets the strictest of standards — a healthy one with WELL certification. At a WELL workplace, you aren’t welcomed at the entrance by voices wafting through clouds of smoke, you don’t have to fight anyone over the remote control for the A/C, and the air over the open-space is only heavy with ideas — not with heavy metals and other contaminants.

 

How to Fill a Healthy Office with Good Air...

...to keep both Floyd and you happy to be there. TEN selected areas based on WELL certification. For a complete overview of what WELL inspectors evaluate, see online.

1/ Air Rises From the Floor

Don’t tread on your own health! Don’t worry, the WELL inspectors won’t leap to measure air quality when your teammate takes his shoes off. They’re actually much more interested in the placements of floor mats — these should be within three meters of every building entrance, to hopefully catch all the shoe grime so that it doesn’t fly up into the building’s air.

2/ A Sick Burn?

If you really want to light things up, try a meeting, not a cigarette. At a healthy office, smoking is prohibited, of course — not only indoors, but also within an outdoor “buffer zone” extending at least 7.5 meters from the entrance.

3/ Quality Is in the Air...

WELL certification sets strict rules on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning — from the “pipes” themselves, to the type of filters used, to the maximum allowed values for contaminants, etc. Unlike other certificates, for some of the most important norms, the checks are made by accredited assessors.

4/ ...And Pollutants Are Not

A WELL building must be free of heavy metals such as lead, asbestos, and copper (or their concentrations should at least be at an absolute minimum). Breathing in air contaminated with e.g. lead can damage your nervous system, and at high concentrations, lead poisoning is fatal. Very restrictive limits for other contaminants such as formaldehyde and radon are a natural here.

5/ The Bioffice

Floyd considers himself a bit of a hippie, and so when choosing a workplace, he wanted to know how they treat their plants. After all, certain pesticides and herbicides are provably carcinogenic, and so WELL significantly restricts their use.

6/ Wake Up!

If you’re feeling groggy after lunch, it might not be because you had too much mashed potatoes. Sleepiness is also one of the main effects of a stuffy room. If your meeting room has a CO2 sensor, it will automatically draw in fresh air to fix the problem.

7/ Speaking of Fresh Air...

Fresh ideas need fresh air and fresh cheese — that’s Floyd’s motto. That’s why he chose a building that’s open to the world, not a glass fortress. One where he can open the window or head out onto the terrace instead of unleashing an “office winter” with the A/C.

8/ Clean as a Craft Beer Glass

One thing that Floyd has an (allergic) nose for is cleanliness. WELL defines, for example, what mobile UV cleaner and what kind of mop to use. It also says a big “no” to wall-to-wall carpeting.

9/ Millions of Unwanted Teammates

Door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, and kettle handles... these are all surfaces that get touched by lots of hands. If you don’t want colonies of microorganisms as teammates, you should pay due attention to these surfaces.

10/ Let’s End up in the Wastebasket

Besides addressing dangerous airborne substances, WELL certification also addresses merely unpleasant ones — foul odors. Every waste bin with a volume greater than 113 liters must have a lid and offer touch-free opening. Like our first area, we’re afraid this one can’t be applied in court against your teammate with the stinky feet.

WELL certification evaluates an office building in a total of eight different areas. Air quality is the first of them; next week we’ll be presenting another element—water—in our series presented in partnership with the construction company Skanska. Did you know, for example, that...

  • the less you drink, the more you want to eat sweets?
  • the water quality in Prague meets the strictest of standards?
  • over a million plastic bottles are sold worldwide each day, but there’s no guarantee that the water in them is any good?

Illustration: ProfiKOMIKS