The First Ever Coworking Space Designed To Meet The WELL Building Standard

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Workbar Back Bay, Boston, is aiming to become the first coworking space to achieve the WELL building standard.
  • Wellness has become a core focus in regard to workplace design
  • The WELL building standard promotes the design and build out of healthy and human-focused indoor environments
  • Boston-based Workbar designed and built out its Back Bay coworking location to meet and obtain the WELL standard

“Health is the new black,” Liz Elam stated on a recent interview with Allwork.Space.  Elam, as she has been plenty a time before, was right.

Wellness has emerged as a core trend at work and at home as the lines of life and work continue to blur. In the work environment specifically, “technology has become a key driver and an enabler within our day to day working lives. Advances in AI and connected technologies are unlocking huge potential for employees and businesses all over the world, improving productivity and efficiency.”

“However, as these advances continue to open doors, employers (and workspace operators) cannot forget that workplaces must first and foremost still cater to the people who work in them.”

It’s this last premise, that workplaces must first and foremost still cater to the people who work in them, that has triggered a new wave of interior design and construction practices and trends. These practices have encouraged companies to embrace wellness in their business environment in order to enhance the work experience.

One way companies and real estate owners are incorporating wellness into their business strategy is through the WELL building standard. Unlike the other well-known building standards like LEED, WELL focuses on the building’s impact on its occupants.

Since its early beginnings, the coworking movement has been an advocate for the creation of more human workplaces. Coworking owners have approached this from a plethora of ways, by creating support groups or programs, adding yoga and meditation to their services, offering quiet areas, designing inspiring and creative spaces, and many more.

As wellness continues to grow as one of the leading trends in the workplace, Boston-based coworking brand, Workbar, has taken an extra step to further its commitment to wellness and create a human-focused space.

Workbar recently opened a new location in Boston’s Back Bay. Workbar Back Bay is, however, unlike any other Workbar location and any other serviced workspace out there.

Bill Jacobson, Founder of Workbar, shared with Allwork.Space that their newest location is the first coworking space ever to be designed to meet the WELL building standard, incorporating all seven WELL concepts into the design and buildout: air, mind, water, nourishment, light, fitness, and comfort.

Workbar does not yet have the certification; however the space was built out and designed to obtain the certification.

The space, other than offering Workbar’s staple workstations and workspace areas, will include access to the building’s gym, cutting edge smart-lighting, WELL managed energy efficiency and water conservation, smart heating and cooling sensors, pollution management systems, and a water filtration system.

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Speaking about the decision to design for the WELL standard, Jacobson says that “we at Workbar were already doing 75% of this just naturally. It was within our ethos and we wanted to look for ways to further and expand it.

“Another part of the motivation was to see how well we matched up to this standard. We care about this cause, we are interested in creating and building workspaces that people enjoy using and that will improve a person’s overall work environment.”

As to the process, “there’s quite a bit that goes into it, although the biggest and most challenging aspects were acoustics and lighting,” Jacobson confesses.

“We had various acousticians work with us in order to reach the proper acoustical levels and we also had to work with the building to make sure that the air handling units were only going to produce a certain level of sound. This took longer than we all expected.

“As for the lighting, we had to install temperature-changing lights that change as the day progresses or as light outside changes. Basically, they are lights that mimic what is going on outside and although it’s not something one would necessarily notice, I’ve learned in the past few days from working at Back Bay that it does make a difference; it creates a more natural environment.

“We were able to champion both of these obstacles by working closely with Analogue Studio, a local architecture firm.”

The construction process started in September, 2017 and it gave Workbar the opportunity to work with industry partners. The end product was only possible thanks to the collaboration of various teams.

“If you are going to go down this road, you have to make sure that you have the property owner on board early on in the process. You also need to get a good architect involved, one that’s passionate about the cause.

“A lot of meetings were required. We had to work together to figure out details like the air filtration system, the equipment the building was going to use, how maintenance was going to be managed, the types of products that will be used to clean the building, and so on.”

Jacobson says the entire process, from the design to the construction, “was a learning experience.”

Though one might believe that most of the effort and aspects that go into building this type of space are obvious, Jacobson says otherwise. “A lot of the things that go into the design and construction, if they are done right, you don’t notice them immediately. Yet, when you combine all of these different things, they simply create a better environment, and that’s really what the WELL standard is about.

“It shouldn’t matter whether you can discern the light changes as the day progresses or not. It’s more about how you feel when you’re in the space, when you’re interacting with it. It should make you feel good, better, and most importantly, it should feel like a healthy place for you.”

Workbar Back Bay opened only a few weeks ago, in the first few days of January. Jacobson, along with a few other tenants have been working from there for the past couple of weeks.

“I’m excited about getting the accreditation and I’m excited about the space. I’m looking forward to having people working from it, and seeing how they react to the space.”

Workbar is currently working on the paperwork to finalize the process in order to obtain the WELL certification. If you’d like to learn more about how the WELL building standard can improve your space and help you attract more members, click here.

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