Regardless of the eventual purpose of a building, the actual materials in its construction, along with its use of space, can affect the mood and wellbeing of its occupants.
Are people who design buildings well-versed enough, in these aspects of the workplace, which can lead to a disconnect between the design of a space and its eventual function?
For architects and designers, continual improvement is an essential part of their professional development. In looking at the value of building design there are various elements they should consider.
Sick Building Syndrome
The quality of the building’s environment will involve aspects such as natural and artificial light, heating and cooling systems and ventilation.
Buildings which were once constructed around notions of energy efficiency, for example, might then reveal themselves to be sick buildings.
The factors causing sick building syndrome can be difficult to pinpoint, but they can include ventilation, cleaning materials and the layout of workstations
The syndrome manifests itself in the workforce in physical symptoms such as:
- Dry or itchy skin or eyes
- Sore throat
- Blocked or runny nose
- Poor concentration
- Feelings of lethargy
It can result in increased absenteeism and low productivity. While it is not a recognised illness, it is a phenomenon linked to building design.
Space and Materials
The more in control of their personal space that a building’s occupants feel, the better their mood and general wellbeing is likely to be.
Elements of personal control might include climate controlled rooms and easy access to outdoor space and communal, breakout areas.
Natural ventilation is another important measure to combat sick building syndrome, and along with state of the art fans, this might include cross-ventilation through movable walls, doors and windows.
Materials and fabrics can make a crucial difference to the overall tone of a building, and therefore the mood of its workforce.
This is very much about the sensory experiences of a building’s occupants.
In the home, people will choose specific fabrics, colours and furnishings because they have a very physical impact on mood. To a certain extent, the same applies in a workspace.
A business or organisation will want to set its own tone of professionalism based on its brand values, but it is important to consider the impact of these choices on employees
This can be anything from lighting to ergonomic furniture, but also choice of carpets and paints.
A building that is too stark and purely functional can be detrimental to mood and productivity as much as one that is too cluttered and closed-in.
Ultimately, the choice of building design and materials may influence the fortunes of the business or organisation occupying the space, through the impact they have on its workforce and workplace culture.