COOKFOX Architects recently completed the International WELL Building Institute's new offices in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street. COOKFOX and IWBI teams achieved the WELL v2 rating in a landmarked, historic building dating to 1912, which put more restraints on the design than might otherwise have been in place.
"Transforming existing buildings with front-end technology and health-centered design thinking is a way to create healthier, safer, and more equitable built environments," noted Rick Cook, founding principal of COOKFOX Architects. "We designed this space to be a replicable model for a biophilic, future-resilient workplace."
Together client and designers developed strategies to emphasize that architecture be equitable, global, evidence-based, technically robust, customer-focused and resilient. They maximized the generous air and light of their corner location; carefully chose recycled or low-impact materials; engineered high-filtration air systems; provided healthy, nourishing food in the kitchen; encouraged active work styles; landscaped the interior with plantings and found many additional ways to earn WELL Certification at the platinum level, strategies that transform spaces in ways that help people thrive. Developing these techniques in their own office allows IWBI staff to provide individual testimony to the research in which they are immersed.
IWBI has found that having a formal certification program with specific criteria is useful for designers and owners as they craft healthy interior spaces. WELL Certification guidelines are being used in 60 countries; over 4,100 buildings are now certified or pursuing certification. Launched in May of 2018, WELL v2 consolidates the latest knowledge, leading research, new technology and advanced building practices to extend the benefits of WELL. By pursuing WELL Certification for its headquarters in an existing, older building, IWBI sought to demonstrate WELL's applicability for all project types.
"With access to natural light, dynamic workstations and a combination of both design and policy elements that support mental resilience, the IWBI team truly felt a sense of ownership and pride in our office space," said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and chairman of IWBI. "By creating a space that mirrors our values, our journey to certification has been an especially meaningful and enlightening experience for us, and one that we intend to share with our community. The space is more than just a headquarters for our staff; it is an extension of our values and a showcase of what WELL stands for."
Photography: Eric Laignel