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Atkins and human-centred design

The ability to design your ideal office with wellbeing at the centre, has come a step closer with a set of digital tools devised by the consultancy, Atkins.

Employees can take an inter-active role in choosing the features of their work environment in a new project promoting human-centred design.

Atkins says that putting human needs at the centre of building design could add £20 billion to UK GDP as more thoughtfully designed workplaces could improve performance and help tackle the productivity gap.

Design Director at Atkins, Philip Watson, will be speaking at our 'Healthy Cities' forum in October to be held at Royal Victoria Docks in London.

The potential gain in productivity, equivalent to twice the annual contribution to UK GDP made by the Aerospace industry, is revealed in research conducted by Imperial College, London in partnership with Atkins, the design engineering and product management consultancy.

Atkins commissioned the research to better understand and quantify the economic benefit from human-centred design (HCD).The research underlines the importance of employees’ experience of the building in which they work and confirms that steps to create the right working environment can have a material impact on staff productivity and wellbeing.

It identifies six key areas where different approaches could be taken:

Lighting – improving daylight provision and the quality of artificial lighting

Ventilation / air quality – increasing ventilation flows and reducing Volatile Organic Compounds and carbon dioxide

Thermal comfort – including solar overheating in the working environment and enabling an individual to control the temperature of their immediate space

Noise and acoustics – reducing environmental noise (roads etc.), white noise (air conditioning systems etc.) and pink noise (human voice frequency) interaction – increasing the control and self-determination of the office environment including control of lighting, ventilation, physical desk setup and chosen setting

Visual elements – including plants and outside views, nature and materials It also notes that relatively rapid payback on investment in these areas can be achieved, This is estimated to range between two to six years, with some individual elements seeing payback in as little as six months.

The findings come amid growing scrutiny of the UK’s productivity versus other countries. Recent figures show productivity in the UK continues to lag behind the levels seen before the financial crisis.

Philip says: “This research underlines the incredible potential of human centric design. It puts employees’ productivity and wellbeing at the forefront of building design. Finding ways to boost productivity and strengthen GDP is even more important amid the growing challenges facing parts of the UK economy.”

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