Designing Australia’s ‘healthiest’ office building

2 October 2019

 

Architectus Principal, Colin Odbert reveals the design elements of a building that contribute to achieving a WELL Certification.

As cities densify, populations expand and green-space becomes a sought-after commodity, Australians are spending more and more time indoors. In fact, according to The Department of the Environment and Energy, 90% of our waking hours are spent within four walls. It’s therefore increasingly the responsibility of our built environment, from the homes we live in to the offices we work in, to make that a 90% positive and healthy experience. 

When workers at Investa Oxford Property Partners (OIPP) Barrack Place, designed by Architectus,151 Clarence Street, Sydney, enter their building each morning, they are greeted by a vibrant commercial scene with wellbeing innovations cleverly at work: amongst the suits and cyclists, the foyer is filled with greenery and plant-life, UV lamps are working 24/7 to naturally remove any unwelcome microbes and mould that may be in the air, and hotel-style end-of-trip facilities and a vibrant retail precinct around the corner gives employees a chance to refresh and recharge. So how did Barrack Place attain its status as one of the healthiest offices in Australia and achieve the country’s first Platinum WELL certification – and why is the benchmark it set so important? 

Tenant wellbeing is now a strong commercial driver in office design - companies are looking to buildings that will engage and positively impact their staff. Ultimately, our architectural design and operational features for Barrack Place had to fundamentally improve the human experience within the building. This ranged from activation of a public domain, to innovative health-based technology and activities that contributed positively to tenant’s wellbeing.

For example, a laneway-style ground plane comprises a 24-hour public arcade, carriageway and a northern courtyard, with a vibrant mix of retail tenancies that promote neighbourhood connectivity and bring choice, interest and diversity to the space. 

Focusing on contextual relevance also helped meet certain WELL features, such as biophilic design for improved health and public art and heritage materials for community connection. 

The incorporation of world-class property technologies prepare the building for a changing climate and future. Some of these innovations include mechanical and displacement ventilation, microbe and mould control, comprehensive cleaning programs that reduce harmful products, and pests and smart light sensors with building usage heat mapping. Furthermore, thermal, lighting and acoustic comfort solutions minimise disruption to occupants’ circadian systems.

It’s clear that the benefits of WELL-aligned buildings don’t stop at tenants or developers - the wider community is seeing a marked improvement from the addition of Barrack Place to the Sydney CBD, with associated amenities, public space and economic uptick helping to improve the city’s liveability factors. As such, Barrack Place becomes a valuable public asset, with human centric design at its core. 

The WELL Building Standard™ will continue to evolve and change the way building design is viewed. As architects, we have a responsibility to keep our design principles relevant alongside this and ensure the human experience is prioritised to create healthy and positive workplaces for Australians now and in the future.