THEVERYMANY first developed its idea with a similar, but smaller, installation in France. That project, Pleated Inflation, was installed at a school in Argeles, near the border with Spain.
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As sustainability becomes the new normal, designers are turning their focus to how people are affected by their surroundings and looking to new measurable standards that provide concrete frameworks for making healthy buildings. We examine one standard up close and break down how it can guide a project from start to finish.
Performance certifications like LEED, Passivhaus, and Green Globes have changed the way we think of baseline environmental concerns, but a new set of rubrics looks to build on those standards. The concept of wellness in many ways is an extension of the environmental movement, as it expands the ideals of building performance to the human experience.
There are several programs that fall under these formulas, such as Fitwel, developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) and Center for Active Design (CfAD), and the Living Building Challenge by the International Living Future Institute, which is more focused on the envelope of a building. Both are both great resources for making healthier and more livable places.
The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is a “performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of buildings that impact the health and well-being of the people who live, work, and learn in them.” It is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and has been employed by engineering firm Arup for its Boston office—designed by Dyer Brown Architects—and by the American Society of Interior Designers for its Perkins +Will–designed headquarters in Washington, D.C. Others, like SOM Interior Design partner Stephen Apking, use the WELL Standard as a guideline for projects outside the U.S., such as the Japan Tobacco International (JTI) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The key to WELL’s success is its ability to use scientific evidence to support claims about wellness that have until recently been too esoteric. “Research is required to take it from the anecdotal to something that we can clearly define, with added value,” said Apking, who reported that clients are often convinced by the data and metrics that support WELL.
The standards are useful for giving clients an idea of how to design a healthy workplace, said Apking, who explained that the research into the measurable qualities of building environments has led his team at SOM to push wellness more aggressively. He cites a Harvard University study that focuses on air quality. It found that though LEED buildings get to a point where they do help workers, they should also remove carbon dioxide in addition to VOCs. This is how wellness can go beyond environmentalism and how science can help give clients more specific assurance rather than just anecdotal tales of healthy environments.
At Arup’s Boston office, it has developed a physical prototype for simultaneously quantitative and qualitative performance assessments. It sets up a continuous air-quality feedback system that monitors air quality, noise, and thermal comfort. “The sensor kit was a way to connect in a multidisciplinary way with the other parts of Arup that are advanced in building software systems,” said Mallory Taub, sustainability and WELL consultant at Arup, explaining the monitoring system. “Talking about metrics is extremely important for understanding these design strategies and how your space is performing. Is it making an impact on the people who are using it?”
However, it is important to keep in mind that people are not just numbers. Working with its in-house operational psychology team in London, Arup developed a survey with a series of questions that solicit responses that follow the seven features of WELL. How much are employees using sit-stand desks? How are the dining spaces working? How are lighting and acoustic systems working?
Similarly, designer Ilse Crawford—in her book A Frame for Life—explained the design of her London studio:
The space is laid out as an apartment, with the intention of keeping the space as domestic as possible, while allowing for us to function as a creative studio. Throughout we have used materials and elements that stimulate rather than curb the senses: wood, stone, proper rugs, plants.… The office of the future has a lot to learn from the hospitality industry. It should be a place where people feel good and grounded and motivated. The office of the past was essentially about control, a white-collar factory predicated on measurables and human ‘machines’ rather than people.
When it comes to the WELL framework, Apking also said that the early conversations with the clients allow him to organize the projects conceptually around employee well-being from the start. “It is not easy for clients to talk about this. WELL helps us lay out the concepts that we want to pursue in the design.”
To dive deeper into what wellness means in the workplaces, The Architect's Newspaper looks at how the ASID headquarters, Arup’s Boston office, and the JTI headquarters have manifested the seven concepts of WELL.
Designers must address issues of air quality standards, including ventilation and filtration systems, to control moisture and reduce harmful particulates.
The shape of the JTI headquarters by SOM helps to draw in fresh air, which is then filtered by a hybrid system that also conditions the air through a radiant system in the ceiling tiles, cooling the air with chilled water. This produces an “even coolness” that is both energy efficient and comfortable.
Because Arup’s Boston office is on the tenth floor of the building, it replaced the air handler in the building so that it could have all the systems needed and be able to take on more capacity in the future. It also used an on-demand control system that allows different ventilation depending on occupancy. Conversations around cleaning and facilities maintenance are important for keeping up on this feature.
Beyond the simple specification of lighting devices and the daylighting strategies, WELL calls for light to be controlled in more sophisticated ways that mimic natural and comfortable levels and types. Circadian lighting designs and glare controls for both electric and natural lights.
Arup’s lighting designers used the ceiling as a luminous surface by casting light onto it in an even way, reducing glare and dark spots. They also received a WELL innovation credit for their design of an electric circadian lighting system at Arup’s Boston office that changes color throughout the day to mimic natural daylight patterns. This involves more blue tones in the middle of the day and warmer tones at the end of the day, which gives the body cues that the day is progressing. The ASID headquarters includes an automated shading system made by Lutron that senses when to control light levels from the exterior.
Because the Mind feature is the most esoteric, it requires post-occupancy surveys to be conducted to verify that the design is accomplishing its aims. Beauty, design, and a sense of natural connectivity are all included.
For JTI, SOM created environments that it wanted to make “joyful” and “optimistic.” Working with artist Liam Gillick, it developed a series of colorful canvases that move through the building along a staircase. Additionally, Lake Geneva and nearby mountains can be viewed from meeting spaces, and the cafeteria at the top of ‘‘the building has a stunning vista.
At the ASID headquarters, biophilic design strategies such as incorporating natural materials and patterns are employed alongside spatial and architectural configurations meant to inspire and give a sense of subconscious well-being. Plants give a sense of peacefulness and add a splash of color, while a soundproof meditation room gives respite from the office environment.
While environmentalism focuses on reducing water usage, wellness is about water quality.
In order to guarantee a base level, this feature sets standards for water purity, targeting inorganic and organic contaminants as well as agricultural contaminants and public-water additives.
Because the municipal water testing doesn’t take into account aging pipe infrastructure, Arup added a chlorine filter to the water line of its building to ensure that drinking water tastes great. Arup also upgraded to a sparkling-water dispenser so that everyone remains hydrated. At ASID’s headquarters, placing water dispensers in desirable areas promotes healthy hydration habits, and no one is more than 100 feet away from water at any time.
The comfort feature includes thermal, acoustic, visual, and ergonomic criteria, not only considering ADA accessibility, but also protection from noise generated inside and outside the building. At the ASID headquarters, Perkins + Will used donated furniture by Humanscale, including “Quickstand” sit-stand desks complete with the Humanscale ergonomic setup of monitor arms and adjustable under-desk keyboard trays.
Arup’s office used sit-stand desks by Teknion and monitor arms by Humanscale, with smaller individual work areas and more common space. To mitigate noise, the designers used mechanical systems that met lower criteria for noise allowances as well as a range of finish materials that make the space quieter. Armstrong acoustic tiles reduce noise, and the office is fully carpeted with Interface carpet tile that has an organic pattern as part of the biophilic strategy.
By providing quality snacks and office meals, WELL-certified workspaces create an environment conducive to wellness. Transparency about these foods, such as ingredient lists, nutritional facts, and allergy information are required. Unprocessed foods and fruits and vegetables are crucial.
Arup’s Boston office likes to brag that it has one of the best office nutritional programs. At first, employees were reluctant to give up their beloved bagel-and-donut breakfasts, but now the office kitchen has a healthy spread that meets WELL standards, as well as a weekly food delivery with transparent ingredients and nutrition facts clearly stated.
The fitness feature requires a design that encourages movement. This can be simply in the form of fitness incentives from the employer, or it can mean the programming of fitness spaces and equipment into the design.
JTI’s continuous landscape loops inside and outside the building both vertically and horizontally right). The stairs circle and weave through the building up through each floor, which gives employees an attractive walking path instead of elevators. The meeting points, such as the conference center and the coffee and dining spaces, are woven through the building. The fitness center is also along the continuous landscape, which gives people the option of working out indoors and outdoors.Want more on wellness design? Read how it's spreading across hospitality architecture and beyond. Workplace Wellness Resource List Arup Boston Carpet Interface Tile Crossville Paint PPG - Ecos Imperial Countertop Okite Wall Tile Mosa Wood Tree Frog Plastic Laminate Doors and Cabinets Pointe Cork Wall Forbo SOM — JTI HQ White Carrara Marble Stair Treads Staminal Stone Artwork Liam Gillick Carpet Interface Table and Chair Arper Acoustic Metal Ceiling Trisax Pendants Arne Quinze Impact Lighting Stool La Palma Perkins + Will — ASID Task Chairs and Sit-Stand Desks Teknion Humanscale Automated Shades and Lighting Control System Lutron Grade Glazing and Doorway System Haworth Chairs and Tables Steelcase + Coalesse Keilhauer Herman Miller Bookcase and Conference Tables Herman Miller Ergonomic Desk Accessories Humanscale Credenza and Mobile Conference Table Bernhardt Design Television LG Additional Furnishings ATG Stores Davis HBF Additional Finishes Cosentino Shaw Contract Nevamar Sherwin-Williams Armstrong Additional Fixtures Kohler
We've always been interested in working with traditional materials.... Today's technologies allow us to draw out their material authenticity in new ways. The collaboration between SHoP, NBK Keramik, and Metalsigma Tunesi on WAVE/CAVE was an effort to demonstrate the poetic possibilities of terra cotta while suggesting new directions for its use in contemporary construction.Lighting was designed by PHT Lighting Design Inc. and engineering by Arup. This project will be on display until April 15.
In the city, it can be hard to find places of total quiet. A new exhibition at the Guggenheim, though, tries to tone down loud New York, at least for a couple of minutes.
Artist Doug Wheeler has created expansive works with luminous materials since the 1960s. His latest piece, PSAD Synthetic Desert III, creates the impression of infinite space as it plunges visitors into almost complete silence. With help from what are essentially large Magic Erasers, Wheeler transformed a regular museum gallery into an almost totally silent space meant to evoke the northern Arizona desert.
Wheeler first conceived of Synthetic Desert in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but this is the first time his installation has been realized. Tucked away on an upper floor of the Guggenheim, visitors pass through three sound-cushioned antechambers before entering the installation on a carpeted gangway.
Save for a recording of the desert, the luminous purple-gray space is so soundless you can hear a whole constellation of funny bodily noises that are typically unhearable in everyday life. While sound in a quiet room registers at 30 decibels, in Wheeler's semi-anechoic chamber, noise levels check in at about 10 to 15 decibels.
To achieve this super-quiet, the museum used 1,000 pieces of sound-absorbing melamine foam on one side of the room and on the floor. 600 grey foam wedges line the walls, and 400 pyramids of the same material fill space below the platform where visitors sit and take it all in. The Guggenheim worked closely with Arup sound designers Raj Patel and Joseph Digerness to realize the exhibition, and BASF, the company that created the foam, is an exhibition sponsor.
PSAD Synthetic Desert III is on view through August 2 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. More information about reservations and walk-in tickets can be found on the museum's website.
399 Fremont tower in San Francisco was first pitched in 2006. Delayed for nearly a decade due to the Great Recession, the tower was finally completed this year under the auspices of architects SCB and developer UDR, as a 42-story, 470-unit luxury apartment tower.
And in the years since it was first envisioned (by a design and development team no longer involved with the project), the neighborhood around the site—Rincon Hill, south of downtown San Francisco—has blossomed with urban activity. Plans are currently in the works for up to 20,000 new housing units between Rincon Hill and the adjacent Transbay area, where a new $2.25 billion multimodal transportation terminal by Pelli Clarke Pelli will open in late 2017. Through technical precision and determination, SCB has managed to turn a once-stalled project into one of the first to be completed in the area, creating a handsome tower smack in the middle of San Francisco’s newest residential enclave in the process.
The architects did so while adhering rather strictly to the tenants of the Rincon Hill Plan, a document set in motion in 2005 that calls for “retail shops and neighborhood services along Folsom Boulevard” and the transformation of surrounding streets into “traffic-calmed, landscaped residential streets lined with townhouses and front doors.” The future neighborhood is envisioned as a mixed-use enclave made up of mostly low-rise apartment blocks punctuated by “slender residential towers interspersed at heights ranging from 250 to 550 feet.”
Managing principal at SCB, Chris Pemberton, and design principal Strachan Forgan described the success of the project as hinging on the designs for each unit, an aspect that was perhaps underdeveloped in the earlier schemes. Forgan explained, “Units really do make the home; they’re an essential part of the project,” adding that “Multifamily residential is our expertise—the firm has designed over 25,000 units across the country. Thus, we were able to design this building to offer a variety of unit types, many more than a typical development would offer.”
In total, the tower has approximately 30 unit types and is shaped like a parallelogram in plan. Inscribed within that parallelogram is a “rugby-ball-shaped” section of the building that, according to Forgan, rises out of the principal mass and becomes the tower’s crown. The maneuver results in two sets of units, with one grouping facing northwest toward the business district and another looking southeast over the San Francisco Bay. The steeply angled south-facing roof crown contains a “sky lounge” and terrace, a programmatic component provided by the neighborhood plan that allowed the designers to give the tower a more striking silhouette. The sloping surface was originally designed to cant in the opposite direction, but the firm proposed a last-minute change in orientation to better complement the tower’s placement along the skyline and, conveniently, to create a broad southern exposure perfect for hosting a solar water-heating installation. The move helped the tower reduce power consumption by some 30 percent. As a result, 399 Fremont will be LEED Silver certified.
Otherwise, the project is made up of a standard mixed-use development vocabulary, with activated ground-floor areas, below-grade parking, and a slew of rooftop amenities. To control for seismic events, the project also features a pair of isolated mat slabs under both the podium and tower that each sit directly on the bedrock. Structural engineering on the project was done by MKA, who designed the two halves of the building to move independently of one another via a large seismic joint. Facade engineering was done by Arup. Arup also carried out thermal comfort analysis to ensure thermal comfort within the units throughout the daily solar cycle. The curtain walls, by manufacturer Yuanda, are designed to pop open during seismic events to relieve lateral pressure. Ground-floor spaces feature retail at the uphill side of Rincon Hill as well as a grand lobby for the apartment tower and a collection of landscaped entryways that mark the thresholds to townhouse units along Fremont Street, part of what Pemberton described as an “eyes on the street” approach to city planning contained within the Rincon Hill master plan.
Pemberton added that SCB developed the interior architecture as well as the physical form of the tower, saying “[399 Fremont] was a great collaboration between the architecture and interior design studios of the firm” and that there was a “holistic sense to the design, an understanding of the impact that the exterior has on the interior experience—and likewise, how the interior spaces influence the building’s exterior architecture.”
In 1985 Mexico City suffered a devastating earthquake. Occurring in the early morning on September 19, the quake took the lives of more than 5,000 people. The earthquake's vibrations of the lakebed sediments beneath the city also destabilized its skyscrapers. Such was the devastation that one nine-story tower collapsed, its piles ripped from the ground. New building codes were implemented after the disaster and now Mexican architecture practice L. Benjamin Romano Arquitectos (LBRA), working alongside working alongside engineering firm Arup’s New York office, has produced an earthquake-resistant skyscraper designed to last 2,500 years.
Rising to 57-stories, Arup conceived pre-tensioned double-V hangers to brace the facade. According to a press release, in practice the skyscraper—named Torre Reforma (Tower Reform)—has an "inherent tendency to twist when subjected to lateral loads and wind" and "earthquake forces." While creating a signature aesthetic for the building, the hangers also provide visual reassurance of the its structural qualities.
Materiality was a key component of the design process for the tower. Arup said that the finish of the concrete was "critical"; the firm evaluated numerous design mixes. Their final choice resulted in a smooth surface, free from honeycombing or other flaws. Poured in increments of 27 inches, the finish highlights the color variations that are commonplace in similar types of pours.
In addition to its tectonics, the building's circulatory aspects were another area of focus. With a triangular floor-plan, LBRA strayed away from using the central core that's norm in skyscrapers. At Torre Reforma, the elevators and egress stairways are contained in the apex of the triangle. Long-span pyramidal floor trusses facilitate concealing the building's services. These trusses also enable dramatic column-free interiors and sweeping views of the city and the nearby Chapultepec Park.
Additionally, Torre Reforma is a pre-certified as a LEED Platinum Core and Shell project, as it makes use of various water conservation systems and a combination of automated and passive ventilation systems to moderate temperature.
"Arup has been indispensable in helping to transform my architectural vision into an efficient and buildable structure," said Benjamin Romano, Principal of LBRA, in a press release. "They have provided innovative solutions to the complex seismic issues in Mexico City and have been instrumental in helping the bidding contractors understand that Torre Reforma is not more complex than standard vertical construction; it just applies traditional construction methods, that contractors are already familiar with, in a new and different way."
Tabitha Tavolaro, Associate Principal at Arup and project manager for Torre Reforma, added, “Building tall structures in Mexico City often means working in constrained conditions. Challenges can include small or irregular sites, coordinating diverse teams, and, of course, seismic hazards. In this project, we partnered with LBRA to create robust solutions that bring value to the client as well as the community.”