By Norman Fisher – Director, Architecture, IPS-Integrated Project Services, ULC (Canada)
Research environments are not just laboratories anymore. Let IPS show you how to create healthy and sustainable work environments to maximize positive research outcomes and recruit, attract, and retain top talent.
Fun fact or haunting statistic: On average, about 90% of our lives are spent inside buildings1.
Consequently, buildings can significantly impact the health and well-being of those who use them. Sustainability and occupant well-being are critical considerations when designing any new building, which is true of science-focused facilities. Two certifications that guide decisions concerning these considerations are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, and WELL (WELL Building Standard), administered by the International WELL Building Institute. Both certifications address the built environment and its impact on human health and well-being.
While the two are connected, they have different goals. LEED focuses on the building’s impact on the environment, and WELL focuses on the building’s impact on the occupant.
The impacts of LEED and WELL on science
The impacts of wellness and sustainable building design principles on human activities in science-focused facilities are significant and can contribute to the success and productivity of scientific endeavors. The following are some recognized impacts:
Improved researcher well-being and health
Science-focused facilities can be intense environments with long working hours. Incorporating wellness principles, such as providing access to natural light and views, ergonomic workstations, and spaces for relaxation and interaction, can help reduce stress, fatigue and burnout among researchers. This, in turn, enhances their overall well-being and mental health, leading to increased job satisfaction and better research outcomes.
Enhanced productivity and focus
Sustainable building design features like optimal lighting, proper ventilation and noise reduction measures create a comfortable and distraction-free workspace. Researchers can concentrate better, leading to improved focus and productivity in conducting experiments and analyzing data.
Support for collaborative research
Prioritizing wellness principles creates spaces that foster collaboration and interaction among researchers. Designing open, flexible and shared spaces can promote teamwork, ideas exchange and cross-disciplinary collaboration, which are vital in scientific research.
Energy and resource efficiency
Sustainable building design focuses on energy conservation and resource efficiency. Science-focused facilities typically consume large amounts of energy and resources due to laboratory equipment and other specialized needs. Implementing energy-efficient systems and utilizing sustainable materials can help reduce operational costs and minimize the facility’s environmental impact.
Advanced laboratory functionality
Integrating sustainable design with research facilities can lead to innovative solutions for laboratory functionality. For example, energy-efficient fume hoods and ventilation systems, LED lighting and intelligent glazing systems can be synchronized to ensure a safe working environment and contribute to personal well-being while minimizing energy consumption.
Attracting top researchers and funding
High-quality, sustainable research facilities can attract top-notch researchers and secure funding from environmentally conscious organizations and grant agencies. A well-designed, sustainable facility can enhance the institution’s reputation and credibility in the scientific community.
Adaptability and future-proofing
Sustainable building design often considers future needs and adaptability. As research activities and requirements evolve, the facility can be easily modified at a laboratory level or expanded without compromising its environmental impact or functionality.
As has been identified, wellness and sustainable building design principles are vital in promoting researcher well-being, collaboration and productivity while reducing environmental impact in science-focused facilities. By creating a conducive and sustainable environment, these facilities can attract top talent, secure funding, drive innovation, and deliver better outcomes in scientific research and sustainable practices.
1- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987. The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: Summary and analysis. EPA/600/6-87/002a. Washington, DC.
This article originally appeared in the Boston Business Journal.