WELL Worth It? Manchester, 27 February 2019

The commercial case for wellbeing in buildings: How it creates value in Manchester

‘Wellbeing’ is no longer a luxury. As a business, it’s your competitive edge in attracting the best talent. It is the expectation of the next generation of workplace leaders. And whilst Manchester is ahead of the game in realising how this far-reaching topic can impact commercial success, do we really understand how it affects the bottom line?

That was the thrust of Chris Bowie-Hill’s keynote speech at our ‘Well Worth It?’ event, kindly hosted by Shoosmiths at the XYZ Building in Manchester in February 2019.

In tune with nature

To an audience of architects, planners, property advisers, and developers Chris argued that an investment in the work environment is an investment in people. Chris guided the packed house through the senses and the environments that have an innate impact on how, as humans, we react and feel. Core to this is our positive association with nature, biophilia, which in a world of tightly sealed working spaces, devoid of access to nature and natural light, is impacting our productivity.

Everyone can win

Chris argued that for investors, an investment in high quality workspaces pays back in the longer term. Businesses stay for longer, and the need to reinvest in the upkeep of the property is reduced if the investment is made up-front.

The employee wins by experiencing a calmer workspace which offers choice to suit all working requirements, which in turn means when they return home in a more positive frame of mind to their friends and families. And employers win, because the result is greater productivity from their employees and increased creativity and innovation.

Panini stickers, floral patterns and ‘sitting is the new smoking’ − our guest speakers

Chaired by Stewart Grant of Hydrock, we were delighted to be joined by a high quality group of guest contributors.

Kathryn Jump, Partner at Shoosmiths, welcomed a packed house and outlined the positive impact felt in their own business by an investment in the flexibility of their own space in the XYZ Building.

Jessica Bowles, Director of Strategy at Bruntwood said that as a developer, owner and manager of 100 buildings, the importance of the space they develop is critical to the ability of their customer’s to attract talent. Jessica said it was important to recognise that their product goes beyond bricks and mortar to what happens inside a building. Cost can be managed by thinking creatively about space, and how different types of space can be shared by different occupiers.

Robert Hopkins, Regional Director at AHR, said that delivering wellbeing in the built environment can’t be a rigid, tick-box exercise. His view on the WELL standard is that it is not like collecting Panini stickers – select the areas most appropriate to you and do them well said Robert.

Robert talked through AHR’s work on The Spine, the Royal College of Physicians iconic new £35m northern headquarters in Liverpool. He emphasised how important it was to the RCP to reflect their values through their building, and to create communities within communities in the building.

Robert identified wearables as the next big thing, putting people in control of what they are prepared to accept in their environment. If wearables provide people with real-time data on the air quality around them, they will simply walk out and away if they feel the environment is impacting their health.

Michelle Rothwell, Founder of Watch This Space, provided an insightful case study of the transformation her business had made to a tired building on Bridge Street formerly occupied by Sundowners Travel Centre. Michelle said their aim has been to inspire the people inside the building. The floral tiled front elevation takes inspiration from the nearby John Rylands Library, green carpets offer a sense of the outside, inside, and a ground floor coffee shop creates a cool entrance area where the staff ensure they know the names of all the building occupiers. It’s about creating spaces where people are happy, concluded Michelle.

Sam Bensky, Partner at RLB said that estate rationalisation frequently leads to giving people more choice on their workspace, from collaborative, to quiet space to standing spaces. Sam’s view is that sitting will become the new smoking, i.e. not good for you and not tolerated. Future design of buildings will focus on ‘active design’.

Sam challenged that it is time to break the traditional costing process, and that it is also vital to learn from the way people use a building to inspire continuous innovation in building design and wellbeing.

Plant life

And in keeping with one of our core themes, the importance of biophilia, guests were able to take a pot plant away with them to tender and care for, connecting them with nature back at their desks!

Want to learn more?

For a CPD on the well-being centric design of buildings, get in touch: email events@hydrock.com.