WELL Accreditation Reflects Concerns With Interiors
Developers are becoming ever more interested in interiors and tenants with the perceived wellbeing of staff in office centers and other buildings as they increasingly seek WELL in addition to BREEAM and LEED third-party sustainability accreditation.
Mastercard office interior by DVM group.
Further, as interiors are now regarded as a central element of building development, interior and exterior design are increasingly part of the same design process.
The interior design and fit-out of an office development often reflects concerns over budget in addition to the need for a creative and healthy environment for staff, which could be seen as conflicting demands.
Fit-out costs are seen as more expensive for tenants and the certification and verification process itself certainly is costly. But, although WELL accredited space is more expensive, the payback lies in increased staff productivity, according to WELL experts. The estimated ROI period is said to be relatively short-term by some WELL experts, although this is difficult to quantify.
“Companies, as tenants, have the possibility to invest in their employees, and create a really inspiring office space, with a fresh and clean air supply, acoustic and thermal comfort, healthy nourishment, natural light and inspiring spaces that can be varied according to the changing requirements and preferences of staff,” comments Emese Kovács, a partner and WELL appraiser at MN6 Energy Agency.
“Buildings and offices can be used to ensure a positive experience for both employees and partners,” she adds.
The Washington-based International Well Building Institute system defines the WELL Building Standard as “a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing through: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.”
Currently, four projects in Budapest are WELL pre-certified, according to the Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGB). With regard to the wider Central and Eastern European region, two office developments in Warsaw have achieved WELL accreditation, as has one in Prague. Romania also a WELL pre-certified projects. There are currently around 70 WELL-registered projects in CEE, of which only three are already certified.
The Europa Design office furniture showroom and headquarters in the Buda Hills, a redeveloped and renovated Bauhaus villa dating back to 1936, could become WELL certified this year: the internal air quality needed to be improved through climatization systems in order to achieve accreditation.
“WELL accreditation aims to support the wellbeing of employees in the building, inspiring creativity and strengthening the employer branding of the company at the same time. The quality and architectural value of the new HQ building is a significant upgrade from Europa Design’s previous office, that better reflects the brand and its core corporate values,” says Kovács, who is assessing the building.
Although the major priorities of office occupiers could be seen as the location and rental fees, the recruitment and retention of workforce has become a more pressing issue in the tight labor market found in Hungary and across CEE. The provision of a healthy and esthetically appealing atmosphere has also become an important factor in the recruitment and retention of staff for companies in addition to improved productivity.
“The WELL Building Standard can help companies attract and keep the best workforce. According to my view, a big challenge will be to convince office managers of the need for quiet spaces for relaxation and private phone calls. Relaxing areas help to reduce stress and improve work quality,” explains said Regina Kurucz, architect and WELL building energy assessor.
“The WELL Building Standard can help companies to attract and keep the best workforce. I think this is an invaluable accomplishment when the workforce is scarce,” Kurucz says.
Both Skanska and the Futureal Group are committed to developing all their office projects to WELL standards. The first phase of the WELL Building “Platinum” pre-certified 65,000 sqm Budapest One Business Park, under development by Futureal, is scheduled to deliver 25,000 sqm of office space and 2,600 sqm of commercial and service space as part of a mixed/use urban regeneration project.
The complex, designed by Paulinyi & Partners architectural studio, will include a 5,000 sqm open interior green area, meditation room, green roof garden, bicycle storage facilities with showers, rooftop running track and electric car charging facilities.
“WELL certification will become more and more popular as long as there is competition for tenants and the labor shortage forces companies to provide more attractive workplaces for their employees,” says Edina Hornok, head of sustainability at DVM group.
“In my opinion, tenants are the drivers, as the building owners have to satisfy the tenants’ needs in order to fill up the buildings and be profitable, after all,” she adds.
However, some analysts have criticized the expense of implementing WELL, despite the related HR and financial benefits of increased productivity, and reduced employee turnover.
“WELL certification definitely increases fit-out costs, both soft and hard costs, which is a problem for tenants in most cases,” Hornok argues.
“Costs could be improved, because now the certification, performance verification and renewals every three years are expensive. The performance verification process could be improved as well, because currently only accredited companies can perform this, which is a limitation, and it increases the overall costs. Implementing the concepts of WELL will likely become the norm. However, applying for official WELL certification may stay less popular as long as the costs of certification are this high,” she concludes.
SUPPORT THE BUDAPEST BUSINESS JOURNAL
Producing journalism that is worthy of the name is a costly business. For 27 years, the publishers, editors and reporters of the Budapest Business Journal have striven to bring you business news that works, information that you can trust, that is factual, accurate and presented without fear or favor.
Newspaper organizations across the globe have struggled to find a business model that allows them to continue to excel, without compromising their ability to perform. Most recently, some have experimented with the idea of involving their most important stakeholders, their readers.
We would like to offer that same opportunity to our readers. We would like to invite you to help us deliver the quality business journalism you require. Hit our Support the BBJ button and you can choose the how much and how often you send us your contributions.