Written By Jane Colclasure
The OFS Brands Dallas showroom was the site of the first annual Designology Wellness Symposium on April 19, which also coincided with Earth Week 2017. The Wellness Symposium was conceived as a curated educational forum and a sustainable product showcase, sponsored by a group of industry reps aptly called Designology. It was a fun and educational day comprised of CEU offerings, a round table luncheon, and an interactive terrarium class. CEU topics focused on evidence-based design, acoustics, workplace wellness, and WELL building certification. Designers from all around Dallas attended to learn more about the relationship between human health and the built environment.
The highlight of the day was the lively lunch hour round table discussion titled The Whole Wellness Story: how to increase employee engagement, design spaces that foster social connection, and encourage occupant health and wellness. The moderator for the discussion was Kaitlin Snow, A+D Market Manager with OFS Brands Dallas. The panel members that participated were:
Jose Montoya, LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, O+M – Project Manager, Corgan
Angela Ramer – Design Anthropologist & Research Analyst, HKS
Melody Lenox – Vice President of Human Resources, Axxess
Vanessa Englert – WELL AP, LEED AP, Director of Product Education, OFS Brands
The conversation got off to a very insightful start with Melody Lenox providing her perspective on how HR professionals can encourage employees and stakeholders to embrace WELL building concepts. She stated that a key step is to ensure there are policies developed with consideration for all occupants and how they will be using the space. Once they are put in place, it is essential to educate employees on the policies and continue to evolve them as needs change. She noted that the development of such a program can be a lengthy and intense process, and you don’t always get it right the first time, so you need to be prepared to tweak the program.
This led to a shift in the discussion regarding the fact that design is now less “transactional” and is more collaborative. This puts the designer in the “driver’s seat” as she is now interacting with a wide variety of users, and it is essential that the perspectives of those users are accounted for in preliminary project programming. All the panel members agreed that this can be a very messy process, but is worth it in the end. Jose Montoya also noted this can help to scale the project appropriately, while also planning for future growth.
Angela Ramer, providing an anthropological perspective, had some ideas about methods that might modify behavior in constructive ways. Employees may be more prone to buy into a program by using a “gamification” model which allows users to make a game out of healthy behaviors such as exercising and achieving ideal circadian rhythms.
Vanessa Englert ended the conversation by again focusing on the role of the designer and stressed that it is necessary that the designer tie together information from all different directions: code, building systems, human behavior, LEED and energy consumption, and possibly WELL building standards. The client needs to understand at the beginning of the project the scope of what is being addressed.
After the educational portion of the day, each attendee was able to participate in a succulent plant terrarium workshop led by Energy Gardens of Dallas. Everyone was able to get their hands dirty and learn about how to take care of the plants. The Designology Wellness Symposium was so well-received, it will be held at the same time in 2018. The topics and discussion will evolve and focus on principal-level involvement at design firms to make next year even better.
Questions about the development and planning of this event can be directed to Kaitlin Snow at firstname.lastname@example.org.