The health and wellbeing of your building’s occupants isn’t just the purview of human resources anymore. Facilities managers can play an important role in making sure the people who work in your building are happy, healthy and active.
“In the last four or five years, the conversation has changed from how much energy can we save to how does the building affect people’s health and productivity,” explains Turan Duda, Design Partner for Duda|Paine Architects. “That’s a very different conversation than putting solar panels on the roof.”
Incorporate active design elements into your building and encourage your occupants to lead healthier lives with these six tips.
1) Encourage More Walking
A few simple low- or no-cost improvements can encourage occupants to walk more. Moving printers, copiers and other communal equipment to a central space instead of giving occupants their own equipment not only requires users to walk farther to pick up their printed material, but also creates a mini-meeting space where occupants can bump into colleagues for impromptu conversations, says Joshua Zinder, Principal of integrated design firm JZA+D.
For a more formal, yet affordable walking initiative, Janet Morra, Principal and Partner at Margulies Perruzzi Architects, suggests starting a competition. “People can wear fitness monitors to track how many steps they take during the day and then compete by department or in teams for prizes. That encourages people not to sit at their desks all day long.”
Many of your occupants may already own a Fitbit or similar tracker, Morra notes, but for those that don’t, your organization may be able to negotiate a bulk discount from the manufacturer. Some health insurance providers also offer savings on monitors, so reach out to your HR department to see if this is possible.
People are also more likely to move if the walk is entertaining, adds Duda. One recent project – a five-building campus for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Chattanooga, TN – emphasizes walking everywhere on campus with a central courtyard and walkways and offers a reduction in healthcare costs for people who walk a certain number of steps. The chairwoman even requested an office as far away from the parking area as possible so that she can set an example for employees.
“If you’re in a shopping mall, you don’t mind walking a couple thousand feet because there are things of interest along the way,” Duda explains. “When we designed the Blue Cross Blue Shield campus in Chattanooga, we designed a series of stops along the way so that if you walk 1,000 feet, you’ll come across a café, a fitness center, a wellness center and an education center.”
2) Promote Stairs, Not Elevators
An existing building has fewer opportunities than a new construction project to make stairs an appealing amenity, but it can be done. “Most fire stairs are gray on gray and they’re pretty grim. Try doing something more playful and using color,” suggests Duda. “Lighting there is often minimal too, so lighting is another important piece.”
Locating communal spaces like kitchenettes and lounges near the stair landings whenever possible can draw occupants to the stairs for convenience and community, Morra says.