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Resetting the standards for workplace wellness

How hard is the task of elevating a building’s WELL rating from Gold to Platinum? Alexander Kobler knows the answer after helping Investa achieve outstanding results at Sydney’s Barrack Place.

The 23-storey office tower at 151 Clarence Street was recently awarded a Platinum rating from the International WELL Building Institute.

Developed by Investa for Oxford Investa Property Partners, and home to anchor tenant Arup, Barrack Place achieved Australia’s first ever WELL Core & Shell Precertified Gold rating in 2017.

A 6 Star Green Star rating was also awarded in January.

Kobler, Sustainability Section Manager with Wood & Grieve Engineers, now part of Stantec, was part of the project team that helped Investa take its WELL rating to the next level.

The 22,000 sqm A-Grade office tower was designed by Architectus with sustainability, energy efficiency and occupant comfort in mind, although meeting the WELL Platinum standard wasn’t part of the initial brief.

“The decision to pursue WELL certification was made when we were fairly advanced in construction and the opportunity to change the building was limited,” Kobler explains.

But the design team’s early consideration of everything from acoustics to thermal comfort, air quality to materials selection made Kobler’s job easier.

“Investa always wanted to deliver an outstanding building, and we were able to show, through a gap analysis, that a Platinum WELL rating was possible with minor changes.”

The challenge was aligning the building’s ‘good bones’ with WELL benchmarks. “But when health and wellbeing are first principles, then a WELL rating isn’t such a stretch,” Kobler explains.

Barrack Place earned the Platinum rating with high scores across seven building performance categories: air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort and mind.

The building’s design ticked a lot of ‘light’ boxes. A 100-metre-long light well runs the length of Barrack Place’s spine. Linked by bridges and an internal staircase, this atrium floods each floor with daylight.

Some tweaks were made to enhance air quality, most notably UV light filtration to reduce mould growth and an upgrade to carbon filtration.

End-of-trip facilities also go ‘above and beyond’ the ordinary bike racks and lockers found in most contemporary office buildings. “The sheer volume and quality of bike racks are impressive. The 220 spaces in a 22,000 sqm building are 50 per cent above the upper limit of the Green Star requirement,” Kobler explains.

A bike mechanic visits the building every month, puncture repair kits are on hand and the shower and locker facilities are “next level,” he adds.

The project secured the maximum five points for innovation. One point was rewarded for extending the commitment to health and wellbeing to those working on site during construction. Workers enjoyed fresh fruit onsite, tools-down barbecues, mental health briefings and support to quit smoking, for example.

The project chalked up another innovation point for offering tours that “share the WELL story”.

Kobler applauds Investa’s commitment to align its company-wide policies and procedures with WELL. A comprehensive cleaning program across the building reduced the use of harmful chemicals, while advertising throughout the building encourages healthy eating.

Kobler says WELL’s influence will continue to grow as employees look for organisations and offices that enhance health and wellbeing.

“The lobby at Barrack Place is always filled with people using the space for work and meetings, chatting as they come out of coffee shops. And this didn’t come from WELL but from Investa’s desire to create a great place for people.”

Article courtesy of Property Council of Australia; first published 16 July 2019.

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