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XWorks first to earn WELL Gold accreditation in the Middle East

AESG, which served as consultant in the project, discusses human-centric design of offices and efforts to enhance IAQ to ensure health and wellbeing

| | May 27, 2019 | 5:24 pm
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Saeed Al Abbar

Dubai, UAE, 27 May 2019: Xworks Interiors LLC has become the first company in the Middle East to achieve the WELL Gold accreditation for its new offices. AESG was the consultant for the project.

Discussing the collaboration leading to the accreditation, Saeed Al Abbar, Director, AESG, said that a number of human-centric design features were incorporated from the beginning, as achieving WELL Gold certification was a key objective of XWorks.

“Any employer’s number one asset is its team,” he said. “Xworks, as a design company, wanted to create an environment conducive to creativity and one that is healthy and energized.” In line with this objective, Al Abbar said special attention was placed on indoor air quality (IAQ), which is vital to the health and wellbeing of the occupants. As such, he said, AESG placed a strong importance on the design of the HVAC systems in the offices, not only in ensuring sufficient fresh air was available but also in designing the equal distribution of fresh air throughout the offices. The fresh air levels, Al Abbar said, were above the minimum standards set by ASHRAE. The CO2-related measures taken, he said, were also more stringent than traditional accepted standards, as the company went above and beyond to ensure the health of the occupants.

Al Abbar explained that IAQ was also taken into consideration when it came to the selection of paint and furniture, with the team opting for low-VOC products and those without formaldehyde. The most unique aspect of the certification, he emphasised, is that it is not based on simply design and selection of materials but also on its performance, post-occupancy. A team from International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) did the air quality test parameters within the stringent threshold, from material selection to HVAC design, he said. Al Abbar added that AESG also executed comprehensive air and water quality testing to ensure the offices complied with the IWBI’s strict thresholds.

Al Abbar said that AESG’s engagement with Xworks extended beyond technical design aspects, as the two firms worked with senior managers to weigh in on wider policies within the client-company. “WELL touches on not only the physical but also on the operational aspects,” Al Abbar explained, “so from the HR policies, the maintenance and to the management of space from a technical perspective, we worked with them to develop a number of policies and initiatives to ensure there is no compromise in employee wellbeing.” This included policies related to maintenance and cleaning to ensure good air quality, he said.

Al Abbar added that there is a strong business case to be made for investing in facilities and practices that ensure good IAQ. “It all goes back to economics,” he said. “If you look at a company, the number one cost tends to be the staff, especially for the professional services sector. The cost of going for health and wellbeing in offices are negligible, because sick days are reduced, and there is an increase in staff productivity and retention. Payback can be in a matter of months.”

Al Abbar said that it is important to look at each project holistically from design to delivery, as well as at the office and the team. “Xworks understood this,” he said. “They could see the additional investment to achieve these targets, but they know it enables their team to be healthier, happier and to work in attention. As they are involved in creativity sector, [the employees] provide better product and value.”

Considering that XWorks is the only organisation in the region to achieve Gold level certification in LEED and WELL standards for its offices, Al Abbar stressed that occupant health and energy efficiency go hand in hand and can be achieved through stronger stakeholder engagement. “There definitely doesn’t have to be a compromise,” he said. “You shouldn’t penalize people’s health for the sake of energy efficiency.”

Al Abbar said that that he believes the number of WELL-accredited facilities in the region is set to grow at an exponential rate. “I think the region is primed for it,” he said. “With the climate we have, people spend most of their time indoors. It’s important to have an indoor environment that is healthy and conducive to wellbeing.” Al Abbar said the public and the private sectors have showed more awareness on the need to improve IAQ. There is especially growing awareness on the importance of air quality in homes, schools and hospitals, he said, but there is need to further educate stakeholders to continue the positive momentum.

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