Architecture and design go beyond form and function in 2019. The new Bio 21 Nancy Millis Building on the Parkville Campus of the University of Melbourne’s Health and Education Precinct embraces design and well-being at work.
One of Australia’s largest biology technology research centers probably conjures up images of a cold and sterile building in the middle of nowhere with introverted scientists scurrying along the long, too-brightly-lit corridors with closed doors. That is far from the reality of the 2018 research facility designed by DesignInc’s Melbourne studio.
The growing concern for Australian employees’ well-being and productivity called for architecture and interior design that provide a workplace environment conducive to people’s happiness, motivation and engagement.
The multinational biology technology company CSL researching antivenoms in collaboration with the Melbourne Zoo and the Walter Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) since the 1920s is an energetic workplace promoting connectivity and positivity. Contrary to popular beliefs, collaboration and interaction among scientists, especially those dealing with snakes and other venomous species, is important to improve outcomes and to provide solutions.
To create a workplace where this is reflected, the DesignInc team, a leading innovator, thought of the best and most efficient technical design solutions that center around the idea of well-being and dynamism while fitting seamlessly into the constraints of the existing buildings and gentle slopes around the new center.
The four-story, tapered-brick Bio 21 Nancy Millis structure incorporates the objective of a healthy work environment with a series of spaces for researchers to optimally conduct their work. The northwest façade consists of a protective screen that doubles as the exterior identity and shade from the sun. Internal spaces are oriented in the same direction with various shapes and forms to reflect the recurring theme of discovery within the building.
Along the northwest wall is an internal courtyard or forum flooded with natural light, natural airflow, greenery and views of the outdoors to stimulate employees’ connection with nature. The forum is dotted with window seats, nooks and interconnected spaces to enhance a sense of comfort.
Well-being, not only in the workplace, is partly defined by a healthy dose of interactions. The world’s longest study ever conducted Harvard Study on Adult Development — its beginning dating back to before the Second World War— has found that people with a strong social circle are happier, hence have more points on their well-being account than people who are alone or lonely. They also tend to be healthier as strong relationships favor brain health.
DesignInc’s team not only took the interactions with other human beings into account when designing the research center but also looked at the effects of interacting with nature. Nature provides untapped resources that play a vital role in people’s health and well-being. Just gazing out from the forum may help to clear one’s head or get rid of mental fatigue.
Sunlight is another aspect that increases the feeling of well-being. Being exposed to direct sunlight, ideally first thing in the morning, improves the mood and lowers the risk of vitamin D deficiency and depression. The sequence of landscaped outdoor courtyards invites research employees to take a stroll to load up on the much-needed resource.
The Bio 21 Nancy Millis Building’s courtyard offers scientists the opportunity to work in a variety of volumes and spaces to accommodate their working style, may it be in groups or alone.
The forward-thinking design of the entire structure that houses laboratories, offices, areas for research, training, industry engagement and the multilevel collaboration forum as the center point support the notion of improving the well-being in the workplace. The visual connectivity, natural light and vertical fresh air circulation towards the openings in the building’s canopy that passively cools the interior contribute in many ways to the occupants’ physical and mental health.
The drive to more corporate health is a definite shift in leadership in the scientific and corporate world. Companies and education institutions pay more attention to the younger workforce that might be searching for meaning and purpose in its work (and life) and is yearning for respect, inclusion, integrity and equality.
The 4,500 square-meter biophilic design of the research facility, especially the forum with timber planters, stepped seating and cutout spaces, provides a pleasant work milieu for thinkers and discoverers. It is also an example of an education 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.
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Source: photos are courtesy of v2com.