BRE office to become ‘living lab’ for occupant health and wellbeing

BRE office to become ‘living lab’ for occupant health and wellbeing

BRE has announced a new project that will test the effects of biophilic design on office occupants and will be the UK’s first live research workspace.

BRE has announced a new project that will test the effects of biophilic design on office occupants. The Healthy Research Building will be the UK’s first live research workspace that measures the real-world health and well-being benefits of incorporating nature into a building’s design.

The project will see BRE refurbish an existing office building at its headquarters in Watford to create a fully operational office that will enable occupants to be monitored whilst they work.

According to latest data from the Department of Work and Pensions, more than 130 million days are lost to sickness absence every year in Great Britain and working-age ill health costs the national economy up to £100 billion a year. A 1% reduction in absenteeism would convert to a saving in lost days alone of £1billion to the economy. Biophilic design has been demonstrated to add numerous benefits to mental and physical wellbeing, as well as cognitive function with studies showing an increase in productivity by 15%.

The building, currently home to 50 members of staff, will be reconfigured into BRE’s Healthy Research Building and will form part of the company’s Innovation Park of exemplar and demonstrator homes and buildings. Experts in building technology will evaluate the office for daylight, lighting, indoor air quality, acoustic, thermal and humidity comfort.  Data relating to the health and well-being of the staff will then be analysed to provide a greater understanding of how products, materials and internal configurations affect occupants through health evaluation, surveys and wearable technology. The project will carry out 6 months of pre-refurbishment and 6 months of post-refurbishment testing.

"The health and wellbeing of office workers at present is typically quantified in terms of lighting, ventilation and thermal comfort. However, the impact of other physiological and psychological influencing factors is currently not evaluated. Biophilic design acknowledges that we are genetically connected to nature and that a human centred approach can improve many of the spaces that we live and work in, with numerous benefits to our health and wellbeing and efficiency and this is what we're trying to demonstrate through this pilot", said Ed Suttie, Director for Sustainable Products at BRE.

The project follows the announcement that the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and BRE are pursuing alignments between the WELL Building Standard (WELL) and BREEAM that will make it easier for projects pursuing both standards. The refurbishment will pursue both BREEAM and WELL certifications and once work has been completed staff will be allowed to freely use the office whilst being monitored using advanced sensor technology and remote monitoring.

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For further information please contact Linda McKeown, BRE, email



We are a world leading building science centre and the authority on all aspects of the built environment. We generate new knowledge through research that is used to create products, tools and standards that drive positive change across the built environment. We enable our government and private sector clients to meet the environmental, social and economic challenges they face by delivering higher performing, better quality, safer, more secure and more sustainable products homes, buildings and communities. We are owned by the BRE Trust, a registered charity, which funds research and education that advances knowledge of the built environment.  We are committed to building a better world together. We are BRE.

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