The healthiest workplace in the world?

11 Aug 2021

By Oliver Thomas

Build Insight - The healthiest workplace in the world - Oliver Thomas - 972 x 1296
The Royal College of Physicians, one of Britain’s oldest professional bodies, has used its new northern hub in Liverpool as an opportunity to fully embrace sustainability in design, construction and operation.  Called The Spine after its highly visible, vertebrae-like staircase, the new development is designed to be one of the world’s healthiest buildings and is on track to achieve the title of the UK’s healthiest.

From the outset, the College set twin targets of achieving WELL Platinum and BREEAM Outstanding for its space.  Qualifying projects in both standards have to meet thresholds well beyond current industry best practice.  Only fourteen schemes in the UK have been WELL certified to date, of which only three have achieved Platinum, the highest rating. BREEAM Outstanding is the highest possible BREEAM rating. In the Refurbishment and Fit Out category, only sixteen projects have reached Outstanding in the UK. Achieving both top ratings ensures the College addresses both the Environmental and Social pillars of its sustainability agenda.

Healthiest workplace in the world strapGiven the College’s mission to drive improvements in health and healthcare through advocacy, education and research, a priority was biophilic design, an approach to architecture and interior design aimed at connecting building occupants more closely to nature, because this proximity promotes cognitive function, physical health and psychological wellbeing.

The WELL standard signals the College’s commitment to occupants’ health and wellbeing too. The Spine has a unique, technically advanced façade designed to mimic the cellular structure of human skin. Its height and position provide excellent daylight and spectacular views of the city.  The internal layout of the building encourages active circulation by positioning staircases front and center.  

According to the UK Green Building Council, the built environment is responsible for around 40% of the UK's total carbon footprint.  Carbon emissions across the project’s lifetime have been carefully modelled. Analysis of the life cycle impacts of materials and their embodied carbon was used to inform performance specifications and component choices. The College’s fit out incorporates demand-controlled ventilation and energy-efficient daylight-linked, biophilic LED lighting.  The operational emissions of The Spine will also be reduced by connecting to the site wide, Paddington Village Low Carbon Energy Hub which provides low carbon heat and electricity. The College has set itself the objective of reducing its carbon footprint in The Spine to zero over time.

Throughout the project, the College worked closely with CBRE, relying on our integrated real estate, building consultancy, sustainability and Knowledge Sector expertise, beginning with the initial property search, handling the acquisition and taking responsibility for the delivery of the completed project. CBRE helped shape the base building too, encouraging the developer to achieve higher standards of sustainable design, so that it would better support the College’s fit out and contribute to meeting its ambitious objectives. This allowed the College to priorities wellbeing and sustainability and create one of the UK’s healthiest buildings. The College’s project at the Spine will be the first fully fitted out, WELL Platinum rated scheme - and by far the largest in the UK to date.

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