BRE has unveiled plans to undertake a pilot project to measure the real-world health and well-being of building occupants by creating the Healthy Research Building – the UK’s first operational workplace research environment.
The project will see BRE refurbish one of its existing office buildings at its head office in Watford and create a fully operational office that will enable occupants to be monitored whilst they go about their day-to-day work. The aim of the project is to enable BRE to research the impact of indoor environments on human health and well-being whilst generating evidence-based information that can be used in practical ways to create healthier indoor spaces.
It follows the announcement that the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) and BRE are pursuing alignments between the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) and BREEAM that will make it easier for projects pursuing both standards.
The building, currently home to 60 members of staff, will be reconfigured into BRE’s Healthy Research Building and will form part of the company’s Innovation Park. The refurbishment will pursue BREEAM and WELL certifications and once work has been completed staff will be allowed to freely use the office whilst being monitored using advanced sensor technology and remote monitoring. Data relating to the health and well-being of the staff will then be analysed by BRE with the view of providing the industry with a greater understanding of how different products, materials and internal configurations affect occupants.
“It has been claimed that we spend over 90% of our time indoors and in an office environment, 90% of the cost is the people inside,” commented Martin Townsend, Director of Sustainability at BRE Global. “It is therefore vital that we better understand the effects that indoor environments are having on their occupants. By refurbishing one of our offices to achieve BREEAM and the WELL Building Standard and integrating state- of-the-art monitoring technology we will be creating the UK’s first living laboratory.”
In addition to creating the Healthy Research Building, BRE are calling upon the industry to help participate in the project through the undertaking of specific product testing to ascertain the impacts on occupant health and well-being.
“The health and well-being agenda is such an important part of our sustainable built environment and something that needs to be industry inclusive,” continued Martin. “As such, we don’t just want to research our own staff to drive this agenda, we want to work with the industry to create an inclusive agenda on research. To ensure we actively undertake the research that the industry needs we’re calling on the industry to work with us on an industry supported health and well-being research programme.”
The announcement comes at a time when the industry is increasingly looking at the importance of occupant well-being and the realisation that there is a huge gap in understanding how the built environment impacts biological sustainability as opposed to just environmental. The alignment between BREEAM and WELL will now provide a more cohesive approach to delivering projects that place sustainability and occupant health and well-being at the top of the agenda, and the Healthy Research Building will ensure that real-world data can be ascertained to help make informed decisions.