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How do office workers respond to artificial lighting that simulates natural light?

How do changes of indoor environmental conditions affect sleep and stress?

What types of indoor environment intervention can increase cognitive performance and improve job satisfaction?

In order to answer these questions and others, Minnesota-based Well Living Lab recently announced an extensive three-year scientific research plan. The project aims to identify how indoor environments affect people’s lives by focusing the investigation on five key metrics: health, performance, stress and resiliency, sleep and comfort.

“Our responsibility is to advance the science by conducting human-centered research that can be used in practical ways,” says Brent Bauer, M.D., medical director of the Well Living Lab and director of medicine for Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. “It’s our belief that favorable outcomes can be realized, which will have long term benefits for people’s lives.”

The investigation will build upon similar studies, including Memoori’s own recent survey and analytical report entitled: The Future Workplace – Smart Office Design in the Internet of Things Era. Our comprehensive analysis explored the scientific breakthroughs from recent studies on building occupant health, wellbeing and productivity. Then analyzed the technological and non-technological solutions applying that scientific theory to the workplace.

“Progressive companies now know that by improving the health, comfort and wellbeing of employees, they can give a significant boost to their productivity. Consequently, tenants, owners and technology companies are all hungry to promote smarter workplaces,” our report summarized. “The future workplace will not all be about technology however,” the report also explores the negative impacts of excessive technology use, and demonstrates that the best solutions do not have to be high-tech or expensive.

Similarly, the Well Living Lab’s study will look at the interplay of elements such as sound, lighting, temperature and air quality, all of which can be altered in various combinations to uncover positive, neutral and negative effects on people. They will simulate and study workplaces but also homes and independent living communities, to give a holistic picture of buildings and how they influence our lives.

The average American spend more than 21 hours per day in buildings, that’s 90% of their lives between the office or workplace, school, retail stores, fitness centers, health care facilities and so on. “Most people don’t realize how buildings, and everything in them, can affect our health and well-being,” the Well Living Lab states. “When we’re healthy, we perform better in all aspects of life—as employees, spouses or partners, parents, friends or family members, and active members of a community.”

A variety of experiments will be reviewed, approved and monitored by the Institutional Review Board of Mayo Clinic, a parent organisation along with Delos. It will also be overseen by the lab’s scientific advisory board with members from academia and governmental institutions including Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Carnegie Mellon University; National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney Diseases; Stanford University; University of California; UC Berkley; US General Services Administration and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.

Their previous study consisted of eight working age participants who spent 18 weeks in a simulated work environment in which acoustics, lighting and temperature were manipulated in numerous combinations.

It indicated that employees are most sensitive to thermal conditions, followed by work-related noise such as conversations and lack of natural light from windows when working in open office environments. These factors affected work environment satisfaction, productivity and even carried over into the mood of employees and their sleep.

“We want to understand the effect of environmental conditions and combinations of conditions to improve health and well-being, including performance, comfort, stress and resilience and sleep,” continued Dr. Bauer. “This study is just the beginning. We will continue to explore the relationship of environmental factors in the workplace and at home.”

The influence of studies by the Lab has been reinforced by their growing collaborative group, the Well Living Lab Alliance. The group already includes big names like IBM, ARUP, CBRE and the WELL institute among others. Together they benefit from 7,500 square feet of sensor rich, reconfigurable space where researchers can monitor and test products and systems on human subjects in simulated, real-world, built environments at the Rochester, MN, facility.

“We know that passive design elements in our homes, offices and buildings can contribute to our health and well-being,” says Peter Scialla, COO of Delos and co-chair of the Well Living Lab’s Joint Steering Committee. “This research will further advance change for the building industry and result in innovative design, products, materials and technologies.”

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