Building to Support a Healthier Lifestyle
The health and wellbeing of occupants is becoming an increasingly important factor when it comes to the design of a building. This has become a prominent industry issue since the global campaign, ‘Better Places for People’, was launched last year. The key driver behind Better Places for People is to shape the culture across the worldwide construction industry, so that buildings support healthier and happier lives for those who occupy them. This is achieved by raising awareness of how buildings impact upon health and wellbeing - encouraging those who design, build, own, occupy, operate or sell them, to shape buildings for the benefit of the end user. Greg Cooper, Preconstruction Manager of the X-LAM Alliance – specialists in the design and delivery of sustainable cross laminated timber (CLT) building – speaks about how this innovative and versatile material can enhance the health and wellbeing of commercial offices:
“Health and wellbeing of occupants is of particular concern when it comes to commercial office buildings as there is strong evidence that links the design of the office with the health of employees that use the facilities. ‘Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The next chapter for green building’, a report published by WorldGBC puts forward the best and latest information on the building design features that are known to have positive impacts on the health, wellbeing and productivity of office occupants.
According to the report, there is a direct correlation between thermal comfort and workplace satisfaction. Timber technology such as CLT encompasses outstanding properties allowing the wood to stores heat and moisture. Warm wooden surfaces contribute to the creation of a well-balanced, comfortable environment.
Timber technology provides external walls with high thermal insulation without the need to be produced at a thicker scale. Over recent years, the timber frame industry has moved from 90mm to 140mm external wall studs – providing additional space for installing insulation. Other sectors tackle issues of thermal comfort through the application of thicker walls, this is more costly and it reduces the usable floor area of a building.
Air leakage is a significant cause of heat loss, and is therefore a major contributor to energy inefficiency in buildings. Airtightness characteristics of cross laminated timber structures are excellent – achieving values of and around Passivhaus standards can be achieved as the connections are typically lapped, screwed and taped.
The X-LAM Alliance address the issues of thermal comfort through the use of their own CLT Construction Specifier – an online search specification tool for cross laminated timber. The system shows comprehensive information on 1,200 cross laminated timber systems and build-up solutions for ceilings, roofs and walls, including external, internal and partitioning walls. By setting a sliding scale to the correct specification - for example 60 minutes for fire resistance, 50 dB for acoustics and 0.2 U-Value for thermal requirements - only the cross laminated timber systems which meet the correct performance will be identified and selected. The CLT Construction Specifier not only selects the correct systems to meet the brief but also defines the complete material characteristics required and recommends specific material types/suppliers where appropriate.
Noise & Acoustics
Office noise can have a direct effect on the productivity of employees. This can be a major cause of dissatisfaction amongst occupants. In order to create a structure that will best cater to the wellbeing of end users - designers, architects and specifiers must take into account the acoustic levels of the finished build. Cross laminated timber has a significantly higher density than timber frame structures which offers heightened acoustic advantages. CLT building systems are able to provide satisfactory noise control for both airborne and impact sound transmission. CLT building systems offer added acoustic benefits as builders use sealant and other types of membranes to provide air tightness and improve sound insulation at the interfaces between the floor and wall plates.
Interior Layout & Active Design
The correlation between internal materials and the comfort and wellbeing of end users is something that is becoming increasingly recognised as more research is being conducted. Engineered timber provides buildings with a warm, rich aesthetic appeal, which can be used to positively enhance office environments.
With employees being such a core contributor to an organisations expense, particularly compared to building and energy costs, it is important to consider the impact that these factors have to employee productivity and the cost to the company as a result. As an industry, we are making strides in understanding the link between health and wellbeing and productivity. Engaging with these theories now and taking consideration of the solutions available will bring significant benefits for companies trying to stay ahead of the game.
Case Study: Curtain Place
Curtain Place, a mixed used commercial and residential scheme located in Shoreditch, East London, is a ground-breaking project in terms of height and mass. This six-story build is divided into three floors of office space and three floors of residential units, providing an outstanding example of how CLT is being used in a growing number of structures to increase levels of health and wellbeing.
The X-LAM Alliance was appointed by Gold Section Homes LLP to provide the structure and as the project is located in an urban area, it was imperative to ensure that the CLT utilised the space effectively.
CLT panels were used for the floors, lift shaft and stairs combined with steel columns and beams to construct the office space. The floor plates, supported on Westok beams, enabled a simpler integration of services throughout creating an open plan office setting. The CLT was left visible in many areas of the office space, creating a warm and welcoming environment.
This is an outstanding example of how cross laminated timber can benefit larger commercial and residential schemes - something that is becoming increasingly recognised in the construction sector.
For more information please visit: www.xlam-alliance.com
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