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Strategies for Promoting Occupant Health and Well-Being

September 2nd, 2021 | 12 min. read

Strategies for Promoting Occupant Health and Well-Being

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A building project is a chance to adopt new ways of working, assess your internal culture, and plan your organization’s future. When setting these goals, you should also consider the health and well-being of your building’s occupants. 

Recently, health has become a hot topic for architects and interior designers. Even before the pandemic, designers were experimenting with strategies to improve mental and physical health. These strategies have become core requirements of many building certification systems, including LEED, WELL, and Living Building Challenge. 

This article will discuss three design strategies that promote health and well-being: 

  • Provide opportunities for movement 
  • Emphasize choice 
  • Incorporate biophilic design

Continue reading to learn how you can implement these strategies on your project. 

3 Strategies for Promoting Health and Well-Being 

1. Provide Opportunities for Movement 

In commercial settings, thoughtful design can have a tangible impact on occupants. Most office workers have little opportunity for movement, spending most of their time at a desk. Studies show that extended periods of inactivity can lead to chronic health problems like diabetes and increased blood pressure. 

Thankfully, simple design solutions can encourage movement throughout the workday. 

Placing coffee bars, copiers, and bathrooms away from workstations is a basic but effective strategy for encouraging movement. To go further, plan the building’s circulation around stairs rather than elevators. 

At Kreg Tool’s headquarters, the design team placed the stairs at the building’s center and outfitted exterior views, making the stairs the most logical and attractive way to navigate the building. Extra-wide landings also provide an opportunity for spontaneous interaction. 


Stairs at Kreg Tool, fitted with exterior views

2. Emphasize Choice

A building that promotes health and well-being also provides freedom and choice. In commercial settings, occupants should be able to leave their desks and work in a way that best suits them.

Smaller workstations can accommodate collaborative zones and focus rooms, providing occupants with more options. Additional space can also make room for wellness rooms that occupants can use for lactation, prayer, or a quiet moment.

Along with flexible working options, some companies are providing on-site fitness centers, showers, and weather-protected bike racks, giving their employees the chance to exercise regularly. These amenities help occupants easily integrate fitness into their daily routine. 

3. Incorporate Biophilic Design

“Biophilia” has become a bit of a buzzword in the design community. Stemming from the Greek words for life (bio) and love (philia), biophilia is the theory that humans have an innate connection to nature.

The theory helps explain why people from across cultures enjoy experiences like walking through a forest, listening to ocean waves, or sitting by a crackling fire. Research demonstrates that these experiences can help reduce stress and improve creativity and cognitive function.

Biophilic design strategies can promote these benefits within the built environment. 

Daylighting is perhaps the most effective tool in a designer’s belt. Daylight can help boost mood and regulate circadian rhythms. Electric light should supplement natural light, rather than act as the primary light source.

In deep buildings where equal daylight is unavailable, utilize skylights, atriums, and light cores to boost natural light levels. Color-changing lights can act as a secondary light source when necessary.

In addition to daylight, create visual connections to nature with indoor foliage, natural materials, and views of the outdoors. Together, these strategies can create a more pleasant work environment and benefit occupants’ mental health. 


Daylighting at Des Moines Municipal Services

Learn More About Health and Well-Being 

The link between the built environment and our mental and physical health is well-documented. Whether renovating your existing workspace or building a new facility, your project is an opportunity to improve occupants’ daily experience.   

Simple strategies like providing opportunities for movement, emphasizing choice, and incorporating biophilic elements can lead to a healthier and more productive workplace. 

These strategies can even provide a financial return on investment by reducing the cost of absenteeism and turnover. Learn more by reading about why you should consider long-term personnel expenses when starting a building project.