Get well soon!
As Suffolk Coastal recently announced it's encouraging local people to have their say on their 2017 annual report about the district’s air quality, Claire Lalaguna talks about the benefits of green air.
"We’re so lucky here in Woodbridge, with all that fresh, bright air racing up the estuary and straight into our lungs, an explosion of oxygen and positive ions.
Air quality is much in the news lately with London adding a Toxicity Tax to the Congestion Charge. Although it sounds like a levy on devilry in Hogwartz, it signals there’s some green leadership emerging, with the capital finally making a stand for its citizens and visitors. Shoots of green recovery?
And not a bit too soon, After all, places like London and Woodbridge are built by people for people. If such settlements reach the point where the inhabitants’ physical and mental health suffers because they’re living and working there, something’s gone badly wrong and needs a reboot.
So it’s always refreshing when you hear about efforts to put people first. While London’s T-Charge is limited to tackling vehicle pollution, there are encouraging efforts elsewhere to take living ‘green’ up a level. Cundall, one of the world’s leading engineers - and a company we ourselves work with - has constructed the very first building in Europe and the UK to be awarded something called the WELL certificate (see picture above).
Let’s face it, workplace wellbeing hasn’t really been top of the list for employers in the past – just think ‘Poldark’ or ‘Oliver Twist’ or the poor old proles in ‘1984’. Whether down the mines, in the typing pool, on the factory floor or up the chimneys, working people have got, and too often still get pretty short thrift. And as most of today’s full-timers spend five out of every seven days at their particular coalface, it’s obvious that a healthy environment is required there.
This “WELL” building standard looks at aspects of the workplace that have the biggest effect on human wellbeing - whether air quality, drinking water, access to light, comfort, and the set-up for promoting mental and physical fitness. It offers all businesses a framework to help them improve life for everyone who works in or visits their building.
Cundall used the expiry of the lease on their old office as the catalyst to design a new space completely around its staff. And that’s a great idea for Woodbridge. With the unprecedented surge in commercial construction here, there’s a real opportunity for designers to build sustainable and people-centred workplaces that can make 9-5 life (or more likely 8 until 7 nowadays!) something far more healthy and enjoyable.
For example, dirty air isn’t just something you find on the streets of London, or in the fumy smog-jog that is LimeKiln Quay; poor office ventilation means you can spend all day breathing limp, grey air that twenty people have breathed before you. Certainly not healthy but also a bit of a downer on productivity. So Cundall has gone green – literally - putting fans behind ‘living walls’ so freshly-oxygenated air from the plants circulates around people at their desks.
So rather than toxicity in the City, let’s have biophilia in the boardroom – and take a green leaf out of the Cundall book. Bike racks, easy transport links, good seating, good acoustics, and good lighting, office yoga, social spaces for eating and meeting, personal desks and some privacy – it isn’t rocket science but it makes a huge difference to staff lives. So, if you’re about to design or build a workspace, don’t just put workers in your plans, put them at the centre, and put them in as People.
Hurry down to Nottcutts – and get WELL soon."
Claire Lalaguna is MD of built environment public relations specialist Satellite MPR, based in Hasketon. For more details go to http://www.satellitempr.com/