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Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Office & workplace / Evaluation and performance

Major field study to research how workplace design can combat virus spread

By Andrew Sansom 11 May 2020 0

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.

This will include research conducted in the lab, along with applications and interventions into corporate offices in the US and internationally.

The Well Living Lab, adjacent to the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester, Minnesota, 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. 

Described as rich in sensor technology and highly configurable, the lab is designed to simulate a number of indoor environmental settings. Real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield will offer expertise in workplace strategy and design practices, including protocols for maintaining physical distancing policies and other concepts for returning to offices. Delos will contribute expertise in 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 behavioural changes necessary to support healthy environments. Real estate developer Hines will provide thought leadership and management in areas of development, engineering, innovation and property management across product sectors.

Well Living Lab researchers will evaluate ways to optimise: the reduction of air particulate matter concentration; surface decontamination; behavioural 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 behavioural scientists will provide advisory support throughout the study. 

“We know that buildings have a tremendous impact on our health and wellbeing, and the role of indoor spaces has now become more important than ever,” said Paul Scialla, Delos founder and CEO. “As we contemplate reopening our offices in the wake of COVID-19, it’s critical that we take an evidence-based approach to make our workspaces safer when we return. 

“We’re excited about the opportunity to extend the Well Living Lab’s pioneering research at the intersection of health, building and behavioural sciences into the field with leading organisations such as Cushman & Wakefield and Hines.”

Evaluating strategies that align with the science

The Well Living Lab will make field-study interventions in Cushman & Wakefield’s and Hines’ offices, along with Delos’ global headquarters in New York. 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.

Brett White, Cushman & Wakefield executive chairman and CEO, said: “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. We’re planning to demonstrate scientific, evidence-based studies to our ongoing product innovation as we help our clients prepare for the coming recovery.”

Added Despina Katsikakis, head of workplace business performance at Cushman & Wakefield: “Our clients are very interested in new workplace strategies that align with the science at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. We’re pleased to expand on our 6 Feet Office prototype with further testing in areas like advanced air filtration and surface hygiene technologies.”

Hines CEO Jeff Hines commented: “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.”

COVID-19 task force

Since 2016, the Well Living Lab has assembled leading alliance organisations 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. 

The IWBI established a COVID-19 task force in March 2020 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, as it pertains to creating safer and healthier workplaces – both in relation to the physical spaces as well as the policies that support employee health overall. 

Insights from this task force will inform the ongoing research conducted by the Well Living Lab, and the IWBI will assess the findings of the research platform to continue to advance the WELL Building Standard.

“The Well Living Lab is uniquely positioned to bring together building and health sciences expertise and technologies to generate and disseminate discoveries,” said Dr Veronique Roger, Well Living Lab director of research and Mayo Clinic cardiologist. “This knowledge will help prepare the world for post COVID-19 safe environments in office and other settings.”