“Workplaces that enhance employee health and well-being also enhance productivity—and employers’ financial bottom lines,” began Ed Klimek’s article, “Building for Wellness,” in the summer 2016 issue of Development magazine. Klimek described how the concept of “wellness” today is where “sustainability” was 15 years ago. But new research — the result of a recently announced collaboration between Delos and IBM — may soon offer fresh insights into the value of focusing on wellness when building workplaces and other indoor environments.
Delos, which pioneered the WELL Building Standard, has partnered with a variety of companies — including CBRE Group Inc., Chinese real estate company Sino-Ocean Land, Australia-based international real estate firm Lendlease and construction services provider Structure Tone — to increase awareness of the value of building for wellness and to expand adoption of the standard globally.
Delos and the Mayo Clinic have also collaborated to create the Well Living Lab, “a research facility dedicated to understanding the interaction between health and well-being and indoor environments through human-centered research. The purpose of the lab is to generate evidence-based information … that can be used in practical ways to create healthier spaces in which to live, work and play.” It simulates a wide range of indoor environments, including offices, that allow scientists and other researchers to study the impacts of lighting, temperature, humidity, acoustics, air quality and more.
That effort took a big step forward with the newly announced collaboration with IBM, a multiyear effort to “adapt IBM Cloud and cognitive technologies to speed the discovery of new insights in health and wellness and their connections to the design of indoor spaces.” Delos will leverage IBM’s Watson cognitive computing and data analytics services to “create cognitive applications that probe the connections between human health and indoor environments.” Delos expects those apps, which will be co-developed by IBM and Delos, to “not only improve the design, construction and management of indoor space, but to identify the potential return on investment that can be achieved by building healthier living and working environments.”
The first experiments — involving employees in Mayo Clinic’s medical records department — are already underway, according to an article in Nature. They involve simulations in the built environment that affect stress and productivity, and capture data via thousands of sensors embedded throughout the lab, as well as biometric data from wearable sensors. Subjects also provide medical histories and complete frequent surveys and questionnaires.
Additional experiments will investigate the health benefits of office and environmental choices such as using standing desks and adding a “green wall” of living plants.
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Julie D. Stern is Managing Editor, Publications, at NAIOP.