Wellbeing Lab for Retail: what can we do to support disabilities and stress in buildings?

Sam Carson, Director of Sustainability Innovation at Carbon Credentials writes about their work with Haskoll and Northern Rail to improve health and wellbeing in stations.
Wellbeing lab carbon credentials

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March 28, 2018

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Research & Innovation, Education & Leadership

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The Wellbeing Lab: Retail is the second of the UK Green Building Council’s Wellbeing Labs. Carbon Credentials has participated in the previous Office Lab with a case study based on our own offices. In the Retail Lab, Carbon Credentials partnered with the railway company Northern Rail and Haskoll the architects. While not specifically a retail company, Northern’s stations contain shops and ticket halls, which provided the retail for us to focus our case study on.

The nature of Northern’s operations meant our focus was different from other participants in the Lab. We considered the customer in more detail in our case study, looking specifically at mental health, disabilities and, separately, biodiversity in stations. These two areas of focus were integrated into existing Northern programmes, but the engagement with the UKGBC lab allowed for collaboration from outside the sector, providing the opportunity for fresh ideas.

Accessibility and Mental Health in Retail

Northern has a progressive programme for supporting mental disability and there was a great opportunity to share knowledge between the other commercial real estate participants and Northern, from the transport sector. Having the support of Haskoll on our team meant we were able to discuss and consider some aspects of the building function from a design perspective, and how the green building agenda from commercial real estate can affect station design and operation.

An example of this crossover is from Revo, the trade body for retail, who released a report about accessible places in November 2017, highlighting that 1 in 5 people have disabilities, but only 20% of disabilities are outwardly visible. The report challenges traditional assumptions about what accessibility means, and highlights the need for more complex solutions regarding inclusion.

Northern is supporting the Time to Change tool, a free training and support programme to around mental health within the workplace, which is increasingly popular in large organisations. Time to Change provides tools to destigmatize mental health issues within an organisation so that help can be provided to employees who are suffering, as one in every four people do at some point in their lives.

Wellbeing lab Northern train

Biodiversity to improve the quality of stations and retail

Biodiversity plays an increasing role in many retail organisations, and while access to biophilia at railway stations is something which has always been present, often the wellbeing aspects of biodiversity in train stations has been overlooked.

Northern is piloting six projects across their network where biodiversity projects will be reviewed for wellbeing impacts. Some of the anticipated benefits include regulating humidity levels, filtering toxins from air and producing oxygen. Plants can play roles as natural machines to improve the quality of air in these transport hubs. There are also secondary benefits of promoting calm and reducing stress levels, in train stations. With people finding some aspects of travel potentially stressful, biodiversity can provide a more calming environment, which can reduce stress and support wellbeing.

Carbon Credentials is pleased to be able to collaborate with Northern and Haskoll on this project, which was a great learning opportunity for all of us. While outside our traditional sustainability and energy efficiency remit, we can still encourage our clients to integrate accessibility and mental health considerations into their operations, and to understand some of the wider implications of the wellbeing agenda. While our energy efficiency programmes like CAPP are focused on the mechanical treatment of air, biodiversity has a role when integrated into buildings to improve air and comfort.

This case study was provided by Sam Carson, Director of Sustainability Innovation at Carbon Credentials.