Apr 20, 2018 Last Updated 12:58 PM, Apr 18, 2018

Investing in design to improve health and wellbeing

Published in Talking Point
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Sara Harraway and Richard Flisher, Directors at CPMG Architects, provide insight into how organisations are increasingly investing in green buildings and architectural designs that reduce their environmental footprint whilst helping to improve the productivity of its occupants.


The concept of green design not only creates spaces that minimise the impact a building has on the environment, but also provides a setting where the experience of end-users is fully considered.

CPMG Architects has found that more organisations across all sectors are giving greater priority to the environment in which people operate, allowing them to flourish in those spaces, whether they’re working, learning, living or playing.

In the case of commercial organisations, the London and Nottingham-based firm believes there is much more to this than providing facilities, such as suitable IT equipment and accessibility to public transport routes. Although these can be necessities for an organisation to operate, they alone are not enough to provide the end-user with the optimum environment and conditions to motivate them and allow them to carry out their roles effectively.

There has been increasing recognition of the impact good design can have, with organisations expecting to motivate their colleagues to achieve their best by providing workplaces, places and spaces that aim to optimise their wellbeing.

Engaging stakeholders within the initial stages of the design process helps to inspire architects and interior designers to create concepts that are fit for purpose and ensure the finished space allows the client’s culture to evolve and thrive.

The culture of an organisation reflects its values, bringing them to life and creating an overall positive experience for both colleagues and customers. Understanding that people are a vital asset to the overall performance of an organisation is integral to this concept.

CPMG has found there is much more awareness from its clients about the implications of providing a suitable environment for their culture, and are increasingly working on concepts that incorporate the three fundamental elements to deliver this; people, purpose and place.

Providing spaces that are comfortable, practical and suitable for each person is key. For instance, an employee that is relaxed in their work environment, is one that will be more productive, and less likely to have time off poorly or look for another job. In a time where recruiting the right people is challenging and the recruitment process time-consuming and costly, companies need to make sure the people they employ are encouraged to remain with a business.

Reimagining spaces to bring the outside in is a growing concept in the architectural and design industry and helps with creating a productive workplace. Biophilic designs link the natural with inside worlds, and many projects incorporate such elements within an interior so people can connect with nature whilst at work.

Research shows that biophilic design in the workplace can provide tangible improvements for employees, for example their wellbeing, productivity and creativity.

Results from recent studies report those who work in environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, reported a 15% higher level of wellbeing than those who work in environments devoid of nature.

Natural light is a crucial element, with views of greenery, water and wildlife having the strongest impact. Having no view can lead to lower levels of creativity, and colour schemes that incorporate accents of green, blue and brown can instigate increased employee happiness, motivation and creativity than blank white walls. This is true, of course, for all spaces and not just places of work.

One of CPMG’s most recent projects embracing the concept of biophilia is the refurbishment of the library at Teesside University – a facility which has a pivotal role for every student and visitor to the campus. CPMG has reimagined the library to include external landscapes into the design, and incorporated nature into the building.

The first floor of the existing building has been completely reinvented, and now provides a rich variety of group-working and collaborative environments in a way which encourages innovative use and thinking. Interiors were transformed by removing small spaces and introducing large, full-height windows in each corner, flooding the internal space with daylight and offering fantastic views out over the campus.

The human factor of a building is now as important as the bricks and mortar that hold it together. Of course, efficiency and the construction and engineering of a building is fundamental – but today, organisations want to ensure that for people who use the building, health and wellbeing is optimised by providing well-designed facilities that cater for everyone’s needs.

It’s not just employees that are benefitting from the shift to green design. Legislative drivers also mean that most buildings are now designed with environmental impact in mind, and constructed with materials that are sustainable, or will lead to lower operating and energy costs.

Having these guidelines in place is a positive move that means designing and building green buildings will become ‘the norm’, rather than an additional expense and effort. Attitudes towards greener buildings are certainly shifting, and people are accepting they all need to try to make a difference.

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