Designing for Wellness: Thinking Beyond Building Construction

Thanks to the increased awareness surrounding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the design profession and a large portion of the general public understand the impact that building materials and construction have on the environment. We regularly discuss design strategies related to optimized natural lighting, utilizing locally sourced and/or recycled materials, energy efficient mechanical systems and countless other environmental issues with our clients and consultants. These strategies have become standard best practice during the design process.

But, what happens after the building is constructed? How can business owners shape operations to benefit the health of the building occupants? And what role should designers play in this process?

I recently attended a presentation about the WELL Building Standard. According to their website, “the WELL Building Standard takes a holistic approach to health in the built environment addressing behavior, operations and design.” While I attended as a design professional seeking knowledge that might benefit my clients, I actually found myself equally intrigued as a business owner.

The presenter shared several startling statistics. Here are a few:

  • Physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for death for the global population. 11+ hours a day sitting increases death by 40%.
  • 75% of the population suffers from chronic dehydration. Just 2% dehydration impairs skills.
  • 2/3 of the world population is overweight and 1/3 are obese. It is estimated that 51% of the global population will be obese by 2030.
  • Unhealthy eating results in 66% loss of productivity.

A brief history of our current health epidemic can be found on the Center for Active Design’s website. Below are a few of the statistics…




Images from Center for Active Design website

Stated in a more positive manner, the following statistics also have been proven through various studies:

  • Workplace programs promoting and protecting health have the potential to reach more than 147 million workers in the U.S.
  • Healthy eating and exercise results in up to 25% better job performance and 27% lower absenteeism

After understanding these facts, I was inspired to establish a “wellness week” at the office. Along with my two partners, we wanted to see how we, as business owners, could help our team gain a greater perspective on their own personal habits and the habits we have established in the work place. We wanted to encourage everyone to develop new, healthier habits which could help both health and productivity.

We created a challenge board of healthy choices and tracked our progress as a group. Challenges included the following:

  1. Choose fruit instead of candy if you need a snack.
  2. Ideally, you should have between 70 and 100 ounces of water each day. Can you drink at least 50 ounces of water a day at work?
  3. Can you have at least one meeting outside this week?
  4. Can you take the stairs to the 18th floor at least once this week?
  5. Eat lunch anywhere EXCEPT your desk! Every day!
  6. Can you go outside and walk around the block once a day?

With 100% participation, we had some great results at the end of the week! Highlights included 2,700 ounces of water consumed, 42 walks around the block, 6 outdoor meetings, 62 pieces of fruit consumed, 180 flights of stairs walked, and 55 lunches eaten somewhere other than a desk.

While it was fun challenging ourselves and each other, the greater result of this effort was raising awareness for all of us about the small changes we can make to better our own personal health. In addition to these challenges, we brought in a mindfulness coach to teach us methods for reducing stress and increase our focus. We capped off our week with an afternoon spent hiking at Rockwoods Reservation.


As business owners become more aware of the productivity benefits of a healthy and happy staff, architects have a responsibility to design buildings that can encourage these habits. At Trivers, we are all excited about bringing these important discussions to our design process.

For more information and sources for the statistics included in this post, please refer to these websites…

Posted by Amy Gilbertson, AIA, Principal


Giving Back to Alma Mater


Our last field measuring trip at the University of Illinois had me thinking more about the previous six years I had spent on campus. Strolling past the Quad, the Union and the many other landmarks on campus gave me flashbacks of the many great events I had encountered and have been fortunate to take part.

Students are the defining factor in the overall culture and main body of the University through tough academia, student organizations, and making lifelong friends. These classes, organizations and friends help establish your goals and ideals that define who you are and how you want to shape the world. Giving back to institutions seems to be a natural calling card to Alumni who encounter such an experience.

As a recent grad pursuing architectural licensure, I am fortunate to be working on the West Classroom renovation at Noyes Laboratory located on the main quad. I was thrilled when I found out I was to be part of the design team since I could now go back and visit my home of six years.


Noyes Laboratory is located on the east side of the quad on Mathews Avenue. The building was first constructed in 1901, with a large east addition added in 1914. The project involves updating general discussion rooms and corridors on the first and second floor along with a larger sized lecture room. To others, it may seem like a small project, but I feel it will make a big impact. Room 217, the second floor lecture hall, is one of the larger classrooms on the quad, where students flow through constantly. Essentially, this classroom update will help facilitate an education for thousands of students over time (not bad for one classroom). Creating this updated classroom environment will enable students to receive a world class education that I am fortunate to have. As an alumnus, it is nice to think I am helping enhance the environment that has shaped me and the countless others before me.

It was not just the formal education that has molded me. For a few of those of years on campus, I was fortunate to be working with the Facilities and Services group. This group helps maintain the vast campus at the University of Illinois. Working with this group gave me valuable insight and experience while I was continuing my education in architecture and construction for graduate school. The position allowed me to visit job sites daily, and create or update drawings to ensure accuracy for future projects. This gave me a different perspective of projects by gaining practical experience through drawings, field verification and documentation, and even some renderings. The experience gave me a well-rounded view of the architectural realm that was complimentary to the education I was pursuing. My time at Facilities gave me a huge jumpstart with that experience, and ultimately led me into my current position at Trivers.

It has been nice to walk around the main quad, drive around campus and even go back to Green Street area (and eat all the amazing food I remember!). Even though it is summer time, there are still a few students walking and lounging around on the main quad just having break in between class sessions.


As designers, our goal is to help maintain this wonderful environment. This environment is what helped shape many people to challenge themselves and become leaders around the world. Even though we are redesigning a few classrooms, I feel that it is a major proponent to the overall experience and it is nice to say that I will be contributing to my Alma Mater as a new alumnus so soon.


Posted by Michael Barkoviak, LEED AP BD+C, Architectural Designer

Realizing a Viable Built Environment: Shared Consequences of Isolated Choices

Spaceship Earth

In the late 1960’s, when philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan referenced Buckminster Fuller’s “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” (1968) by saying “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all the crew.”, he was reducing to pithy metaphor Fuller’s precient, scholarly message of the interrelations and critical path of activity of all of humanity’s undertakings to-date and in the future. Diverse specialized efforts drive innovation; the innovative becomes the generalized norm; and the resulting uniformity -good or ill- is consequential to all without regard to status. In our day, a mere half-century from Fuller’s prognostications, leveraging finite natural resources for the sake of isolated choices made to modify a single Place, Time or Activity can easily effect a multiplicity of developments throughout the global system. Architects, planners and engineers are by definition agents of change. It is our privilege and our duty to be educated, mindful, technically- and aesthetically-skilled advisors to our clients for making decisions that maintain the viability of our universal vessel. Among us, no first class nor steerage; it is all hands on deck.

Posted by Frank Rosario, AIA, Project Manager