As people speculate about the “new normal” created by the widespread impact of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, one aspect in particular is what office buildings and other workspace environments will look like when society returns to them in full force.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the cornerstones of the wellness/biophilia trend, and something that pioneering wellness company Delos has championed as part of its efforts to optimize wellness for commercial, hospitality and residential markets. Now it’s become clearer than ever in light of the coronavirus outbreak that IAQ will play an even more prominent role in businesses and homes as we move forward.
Toward that end, the Well Living Lab, a Delos and Mayo Clinic collaboration dedicated to researching the indoor environment’s impact on human health, has announced a comprehensive plan to study the design and operation of workspaces to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
The initiative will include research conducted in the lab, along with applications and interventions into corporate offices in the U.S. and internationally.
The Well Living Lab, adjacent to the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester, Minn., will use its configurable “living lab” office space to generate insights and evaluate technologies for reducing the risk of respiratory virus transmission in work environments, according to Delos.
Rich in sensor technology and highly configurable, the lab is designed to simulate various indoor environmental settings, the announcement states. Delos’ expertise in this realm includes air filtration strategies for reducing particulate matter concentration, surface hygiene protocols, algorithms designed to remediate indoor environmental concerns, and software to promote occupant adoption of behavioral changes necessary to support healthy environments.
Wellness Collaboration Includes Office Design Thought Leadership
Meanwhile, Delos and the Mayo Clinic are also receiving input from leading office and real estate design firms as part of this collaborative workspace wellness endeavor.
Cushman & Wakefield, a leader in workplace strategy and design practices, will contribute expertise that includes protocols for maintaining physical distancing policies and other concepts for returning to offices.
Hines will offer lessons learned from six decades of creating innovative, sustainable real estate from many of the firm’s key leaders in development, engineering, innovation and property management across product sectors, according to the announcement.
“We know that buildings have a tremendous impact on our health and well-being, and the role of indoor spaces has now become more important than ever,” says Paul Scialla, Delos founder and CEO.
“As we contemplate reopening our offices in the wake of COVID-19, it is critical that we take an evidence-based approach to make our workspaces safer when we return. We are excited about the opportunity to extend the Well Living Lab’s pioneering research at the intersection of health, building and behavioral sciences into the field with leading organizations such as Cushman & Wakefield and Hines.”
To advance return-to-work guidelines, the Well Living Lab will leverage its field study capabilities for interventions in Cushman & Wakefield’s and Hines’ offices, along with Delos’ global headquarters in New York. Hines has a global management portfolio of more than 500 properties and is identifying locations, buildings and workspaces that will complement and fuel this research, Delos notes.
Collectively, the information gathered from all participant sites will be aggregated to inform the continued advancement of guidelines. The study is also designed to include participation in other field locations from additional corporate tenants and landlords.
“We look forward to this continued collaboration with Delos and the Well Living Lab as we work together to promote a safe workplace as offices reopen,” says Brett White, Cushman & Wakefield executive chairman and CEO. “We’re planning to demonstrate scientific, evidence-based studies to our ongoing product innovation as we help our clients prepare for the coming recovery.”
Hines CEO Jeff Hines adds, “Our people have been pioneers in creating progressive real estate that advances the built environment, so joining this effort is a natural way for us to give back, while continuing to anticipate and meet the needs of tenants, clients and investors.”
Myriad Factors to Future Workspace Strategies
Well Living Lab researchers will evaluate ways to optimize the effectiveness of reducing air particulate matter concentration, surface decontamination, behavioral patterns of physical distancing, building entry protocols such as thermal screening, as well as the performance, emotional resiliency, and satisfaction of employees.
Delos’ health, building and behavioral scientists will provide advisory support throughout the study, the company states. The Well Living Lab’s framework of discovery, translation and application, adapted from Mayo Clinic’s research approach, will move findings into the field.
“Our clients are very interested in new workplace strategies that align with the science at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19,” says Despina Katsivalis, head of Occupier Business Performance, Cushman & Wakefield. “We’re pleased to expand on our 6 Feet Office prototype with further testing in areas like advanced air filtration and surface hygiene technologies.”
Since 2016, the Well Living Lab has assembled leading alliance organizations to study the convergence of building sciences and health sciences. This includes the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation and Well Living Lab alliance member.
IWBI established a COVID-19 task force in March to advance the role of buildings in protecting and enhancing health. More than 450 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics and business leaders, as well as architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals have been collaborating on principles of prevention and preparedness, resiliency and recovery toward producing safer and healthier workplaces.