Ideas

Taking Measure of the Living Lab

By Tommy Zakrzewski on November 1, 2018

In defining, designing and delivering our new Chicago office, which we call a “Living Lab,” we wanted to show who HKS is and what we believe in. We knew right away that we had an opportunity to apply our signature design philosophies, and through measurable results the new office exemplifies a renewed understanding of what we do and what our work means. After our first year in our new space, we’ve issued an Impact Report to communicate the goals we set for our design, and how we measure results. With this information, we calibrate and fine-tune our designs, learning from them and improving performance as we go.

We’ve seen the industry transform over the past 20 years with the support of LEED, but now we’re pivoting to a new complimentary framework with the WELL Building Standard that further reinforces and enhances human health and wellbeing outcomes. HKS is also demonstrating a commitment to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship by backing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR certifications.

With a focus on how the built environment truly impacts health and well-being both qualitatively and quantitatively, the concept of making HKS Chicago a living lab seeded a commitment to establish and evaluate critical behavioral and space performance metrics as part of an ongoing research effort in evidence-based design. We are committed to leveraging and exploring new design ideas and observing how those ideas change our behavior and create healthy, productive and happy work environments.

The HKS Chicago office is our internal benchmark for better understanding the impacts (barriers and successes) of these two frameworks and it reinforces the business case for wellbeing in the workplace. Our design process is inclusive and sustained by our practices of transparency, accountability, open dialogue and constructive criticism. The data we gather is an agent for improved health outcomes for all our projects.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) rating system supports a performance-based approach to sustainable interior building design practices and strategies that result in the enhancement of indoor environmental quality while upholding energy efficiency. WELL Certification advances and improves health and well-being through scientific and human health research and design. WELL’s verifiable design element and policy intervention is reforming design thinking while advancing positive behaviors in building design and operation.

The EPA’s ENERGY STAR Charter Tenant Space recognition indicates that a space has met specific design criteria and has verified five key actions that continually drive improvements in energy efficiency. This pilot-program supports the development of performance-based recognition for occupied spaces.

To date, the HKS Chicago Living Lab is currently pursuing WELL Gold Certification and has already achieved LEED Platinum and ENERGY STAR Charter Tenant Certification. HKS Chicago is one of 50 unique property tenants who participated in the pilot and received the 2018 ENERGY STAR Charter Tenant Space recognition. The commonality between LEED, WELL and ENERGY STAR became the true differentiator in the Chicago office.

To ensure that the Living Lab continuously delivers on design promises, a tenant energy and environmental management system was integrated over base building controls to evaluate the critical behavioral and space performance metrics outlined during early visioning sessions and alignment meetings. The challenge was designing, coordinating and budgeting the system to give HKS full research capabilities. Each certification increases the technical rigor of designing a system to support energy management and to continually measure indoor environmental quality.

The intent is to make data more actionable to effectively remediate issues as they arise. This is how we are quantitatively benchmarking our design that inevitably feeds into our research.

We have also developed various surveys to qualitatively understand how the space is being perceived. Measuring instantaneous energy performance, environmental conditions and human response embodies a triple bottom line approach to holistic metering.

The principles and ideas that are guiding our conceptual work at HKS strengthen the intuitive aspects of defining, designing and delivering beauty and performance. This is about elevating the quality of our “one firm” thinking.

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