When architects in Michigan design a building they have to consider how the buildings impact its occupants. The environments that are being created through many factors like lighting, materials, air quality, etc. Simple factors that when combined can either enhance or destroy a workplace. Today we will discuss how architects can help you achieve better work environments for your employees, and what resources are available.

Over time, the major concerns of buildings have changed. Before electricity fires were a common issue among structures, along with the use of toxic materials such as lead and asbestos that began a string of long term health complications for many. Now that we’ve solved these kinds of problems we have focused our attention on more modern problems. Architects in Michigan have redirected their focus on the health and wellbeing of occupants inside of the buildings they design.

Recent and historic studies show that structures have a major influence on occupants both physically and emotionally. There are more factors that play a part in the wellness inside of a building then some would realize. In order to create productive environments, designers examine material selection, lighting strategies, ventilation, acoustics, accessibility, thermal comfort, views, and aesthetics. There are six dimensions of wellness which include: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and occupational. Occupants must feel fulfilled in their jobs and feel as though they are contributing to their community while having the ability to search for meaning, access to stimulating activities and to be aware of and accept their feelings. All of this can be achieved through a design that provides them with a space that they feel good in. People spend most of their time indoors so it is essential to address these elements. The productivity of a building varies based on use. Some buildings may rely on some of these factors more than others. Architects in Michigan have skills that they can use to find a balance between these components. That’s why consulting with a local architect is in the best interests of your business.

Architects in Michigan can create healthy spaces for workers in many ways. They select paint, flooring, furniture and sealants/adhesives that have low VOC emissions. As we talked about before, elements that can go unnoticed like emission of harmful gasses can have some of the biggest influences on occupants. Systematic space planning is a no brainer for architects in Michigan. Creating spaces that are easy to navigate through constructs more positive environments to be in. Also, it is known that most people prefer natural lighting versus artificial so placing large windows in works spaces provides this and improves views and overall aesthetic of the workspace. If you only have artificial light sources illuminating a space you’re going to have ornery unproductive workers.

The significance of a well-designed space is becoming more attractive to business owners because of its benefits. Taking steps towards improving the work environment may be intimidating to those who are unfamiliar with the design world. However, organizations are being formed to encourage future developments to incorporate designs that promote healthy workplaces and to make the process easier. There are numerous building rating systems: Living Building Challenge, Fitwel, BREEAM, LEED, etc. It can be tricky to receive a certification on a building through these rating systems, however, there are resources available to help clarify the requirements. BuildingsGreen has valuable information along with aligning documents that cross-examine certifications and determine if specific systems credit can be used for another certification for those who wish to attain multiple certifications. There are many certifications to pursue and it can be overwhelming, you just have to chose what certifications are best for your building.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system that focuses’ on six categories: sustainable sites, innovative design, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, water efficiency, and indoor environmental quality. A building that implements design solutions for these categories can receive a certification of either Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Fitwel is another rating system that orients its focus on the behaviors of occupants. All of its 55+ evidence-based performance strategies are based on its six health impact categories: Impacts Community Health, Reduces Morbidity and Absenteeism, Supports Social Equity for Vulnerable Populations, Instills Feelings of Well-Being, Increase Physical Activity, Promotes Occupant Safety, and Promotes Healthy Food Options.

The Living Building Challenge is a building rating system that has organized its program around the concept of a flower. Flowers give more than what they take and they believe that buildings should do the same. They have broken down their performance categories into seven areas (or petals): equity, beauty, place, water, health and happiness, energy and materials. They have three different certification pathways. A building that achieves all petals receives the Living Building Certification, one that meets a minimum of three petals gets the Petal certifications and buildings that get all of their energy from on-site sources earns the Zero Energy Certification.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assesment Method) was the world first sustainable assessment approach. BREEAM is similar to LEED but has nine performance categories: materials, land use, energy, health and wellbeing, pollution, waste, water, transport, and management. Those who pursue BREEAM receive certifications on a scale of one to six stars, six being the highest.

Creating healthy spaces isn’t the only thing that plays a role in the health of employees. Buildings that are green or sustainable have proven to have better overall health and wellness scores among its occupants. Typically, a building that is green includes better natural lighting, less noise due to sustainable ventilation systems, better thermal comfort, and aesthetics – all elements that make its occupants more comfortable and less distracted. Along with that, employers notice a drop in sick days.

The steps toward creating healthy spaces can be complicated but tools like architects in Michigan and building rating systems can help you achieve your goals. Sedgewick + Ferweda Architects can help ease this process by providing creative design solutions that form beautiful environments that your employees will want to work in, increase their productivity and reduce absenteeism.