The concept of whole building design, or whole building integration, has rapidly gained steam over the past few years. As the late architect and early advocate of the concept Don Prowler of Whole Building Design put it:
“[It’s] an essential way of approaching building projects. Understanding Whole Building Design concepts will enable you to think and practice in an integrated fashion to meet the demands of today’s as well as tomorrow’s high-performance building projects.”
Within a whole-building approach, builders and project leads consider the process of creating or renovating the space more holistically. Saving energy, maintaining the historical elements of a building, and creating a comfortable and healthy environment are key to the building’s success, going far beyond traditional factors like cost or construction speed.
The benefits, of course, are not just philanthropic. Creating infrastructure within the whole building integration approach makes the property, businesses inside it, and the workplace more desirable and competitive. As it turns out, technology plays a key role in that process.
Whole Building Integration in Office Building Design
As pointed out in the National Institute of Building Sciences Whole Building Design Guide, whole building integration is especially relevant in office buildings. There is a growing need for business collaboration to take place within the office environment. Partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities exist to improve efficiencies and provide competitiveness in anything from recruitment to onboarding.
New employee and tenant expectations have accelerated that pace of workspace improvement. Technology becomes essential to support the needs of a hybrid remote and in-person workplace.
We must build modern office buildings for tenant safety, health, comfort, and accessibility to accommodate these needs. Specific factors within the whole building design infrastructure include:
- Accessibility, from parking to assistive technology.
- Aesthetics, creating spaces that employees want to work in and return to.
- Cost-efficiency, both in initial material requirement and long-term lifecycle maintenance costs.
- Function and flexibility for both businesses and their employees.
- Worker satisfaction, health, and comfort lead to greater productivity.
- Safety and security in anything from natural hazards to human-focused threats.
- Sustainability in the choice of building materials, energy use, and water use.
- Technical connectivity through a robust and flexible infrastructure with wired and wireless capabilities.
Office buildings created with these standards and requirements in mind, in turn, can lead to significant benefits for both the building operator and the business tenants inside.
The Core Benefits of Integrated Whole Buildings
The benefits of a whole integrated building boil down to the fact that this approach makes it easier to provide a workspace that is both attractive and dynamic to work in.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the role of the physical office in most industries. The physical space to work has become a core consideration in what makes a company a great place to work. Employees and applicants are looking for spaces that allow them to collaborate, build community, communicate, mentor each other, and work together to innovate.
Whole building designs mean creating these spaces and turning the office building into an active recruitment asset in the process. That asset extends to onboarding, where the changing expectations of new employees require spaces that allow for technology-supported training that spans both remote and in-person work.
That benefit is not just intangible. As the Whole Building Design Guide puts it,
“… If the office structure can leverage the (typical) 3 to 4 percent expenditure on facilities to improve the productivity of the workplace, it can have a very dramatic effect on personnel contributions representing 90 to 91 percent of the service organization’s costs.”
Design Objectives for an Integrated Space to Enable High Organizational Performance
The benefits of whole building integration don’t just extend to incoming or new employees. The integrated design creates more high-performance work environments, leading to comprehensive benefits for every occupant and tenant in the building.
An environment built with worker needs and expectations in mind naturally improves worker satisfaction. But with design productivity as another core objective, that productivity should also lift through spaces specifically built to minimize waste and frustrations.
Holistically designed buildings also aim to improve the health and well-being of employees, focusing on attributes like the right amount and quality of lighting, a sense of privacy, access to windows, a connection to nature, and more. Reduced stress and improved employee health lead to greater job satisfaction and lower turnover.
The office buildings also need to support the changing nature of work. More flexible workspaces allow for consistent productivity and efficiency regardless of whether employees work at the office or from home. These buildings account for greater employee mobility, more attention paid to professional development integration, optimized spaces for social interactions, and more.
Every building uses a set amount of resources and generates waste. Whole building integration aims to minimize waste to create more sustainable structures and maintain a minimal footprint and enhanced lifecycle. Project owners and contributors can optimize their initial investments in architectural design, systems selection, and building construction through life cycle analysis.
Choosing suitable materials to accommodate that need becomes a crucial part of the process. Offices need the flexibility to adapt to technology upgrades and the changing nature of work. Gridd and Gridd Power, for instance, are 100% made in the USA, from both recyclable and regionally sourced materials.
Gridd contributes to 5 LEED Credit Categories, and is GreenSpec listed. It’s the most environmentally conscious power distribution solution available.
Transitioning to the Whole Building Model in Commercial Buildings
The importance of a well-designed, responsive workplace is more relevant than ever. Employees have always craved it, but the trend is shifting expectations and worker power has made it a crucial piece in setting businesses apart in the race for effective recruitment and employee retention.
The design approach has the ability to set a building apart. Promoting the use and re-use of spaces, all within the concepts of whole building integration with a more comprehensive emphasis on worker support, builds a foundation in which talent – and, by extension, the organization occupying the space – can thrive.