JLL
JLL's office in Manchester has received the prestigious WELL Platinum Certification. Credit: via JLL

JLL’s Manchester office first outside London to get WELL Platinum

Julia Hatmaker

The real estate services company’s office in the Landmark building on Oxford Road is officially one of the healthiest and best for wellbeing in the world now that it has been certified platinum on the WELL system.

Founded by the lnternational WELL Building Institute, the WELL Building Standards are a way to measure how a facility enhances human health and well-being. It does this by looking at a variety of factors, including measuring the amount of volatile organic compounds in the air. VOCs are sent into the air from certain solids and liquids, like paints, furnishings, glue and the like. A high level of VOCs can lead to health issues.

At JLL’s office, there’s a monitor that continually checks and displays the amount of VOCs in the air. When Place North West visited, there was 202 ppb thanks to the additional filtering and oxygenating of the air that the company does. Anything below 250 ppb is considered excellent.

“The air you’re breathing in here is cleaner than the air you’re breathing outside,” said Stephen Hogg, head of JLL North West and regional residential UK regions,

Air quality is further improved by the abundance of plants and living walls in the office. Each plant was chosen with care according to JLL project manager Laura Wardrope, who managed the fit-out of the office.

“Some plants are better at removing certain chemicals, so we chose the ones that maximise that,” she said. “I also think having plants overall benefits people’s moods and wellbeing.”

Looking up in the office and you’ll see what looks like fluffy white insulation on the ceiling. It’s actually cellulose spray, which helps soundproof spaces in a way that’s more sustainable than adding a drop ceiling.

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Informal meeting areas at the JLL office at Landmark. Credit: PNW

Wellbeing in the office is supported through a variety of elements, including a multi-faith room – a first for JLL in Manchester. The office also has a first aid room, complete with a bed. That bed has come in handy after Thursday evenings in the city, but there’s a rule in place.

“Rule is, if you’re found there on a Friday morning it’s a £50 fine to charity,” Hogg said. The money is given to Wood Street Mission.

“Donations are at an all-time high,” he added with a smile.

There’s also a fine for those who don’t adhere to the company’s clean desk policy – because there are no assigned desks in the office all items are meant to be taken by the workers with them as they move through the office. What they aren’t using at the time can be stored in their lockers.

Leaving a laptop on a desk is a minimum of £20 fine to Wood Street Mission. A personal item is £10.

Those looking for a quiet spot to have a zoom meeting can go to one of the company’s telephone booths, which also function as miniature meeting rooms. Each has its own light and air conditioning control.

A big part of the JLL philosophy for this office was to focus on circular uses. Wardrope said they wanted to work with companies on the fit-out that had plans in place for the end of the furnishings life – not just the beginning. That means making sure the materials used are able to be recycled and transformed into something new.

“The whole thing with the circular economy is taking it from the design, through the procurement through construction, right to end of life and understanding that when we finished with this space we need to know how we can deconstruct it and maximize the value of each of each and every asset,” Wardrope explained. “And that’s what we’ve tried to do here as well.”

Around half of the furnishings at the office are second-hand, or “second-life” as Wardrope calls it.

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JLL removed the glue from these “second-life” chairs before putting them in the office. Credit: PNW

The black desk chairs, for instance, were formerly used in Goldman Sachs offices and were being sent to a landfill. JLL intercepted them, took the chairs and then took them apart by hand. That’s because the chairs had glue keeping them together – and glue is one of the materials that give off VOCs. So JLL had the glue removed from the chairs and then hand-stitched them back together.

The office also features recycled materials in unusual ways. A throw on a couch was made of recycled bottle tops. The carpet was crafted from yarn made from fishing nets.

Even in the lobby, the marble-like surface you see is actually made of recycled yoghurt pots.

The yoghurt pot surface is a win-win for Hogg.

“It’s durable. It looks good. It’s a good talking point and it does nothing to the world,” he said.

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A countertop made of yoghurt pots at the JLL office. Credit: PNW

Using second-life furnishings and not having to ‘retrofit’ an existing space – JLL was the first to move into the office and was able to influence its design process – meant that the embodied carbon in the facility was limited.

“I think a standard fit-out would be between 180 to 220 kilograms of embodied carbon per metre squared,” Wardrope said. “With this office, we got it down to 120 kilograms of embodied carbon per metre squared.”

WELL’s standards also look at the snacks on offer in a workplace. That means the company no longer offers crisps and chocolates for free. Those snacks have been replaced with healthier options, which, Hogg said, are just as tasty.

For those looking to achieve WELL Platinum, Hogg and Wardrope have some advice.

“Pre-planning is everything,” Hogg said. “You can’t change your mind halfway through, you’ve got to commit to it right at the beginning.”

Wardrope advised others to try and do it all.

“I think people shouldn’t be afraid of applying health and wellbeing and environmental sustainability together, because you can achieve both,” she said. “You know, sometimes you might have to prioritise one or the other, but they can work together.”

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The reception at JLL’s office at Landmark. Credit: via JLL

Having a nice office has played an indirect part in JLL’s increase in returns from the Manchester office, according to Hogg.

“JLL is committed to giving their employees the best work environment you can possibly get,” Hogg said. “And in return, you know, JLL expects the best from their employees.

“So they’ve committed and produced their promise. So, I think we have, in return, we’re probably looking at the best return in 10 years really from this office.”

The office is also great for helping clients see how wellbeing and sustainability practices can be put into action. Wardrope said she loves bringing clients in.

“It’s amazing for inspiring clients,” she said.

While JLL’s offices may be the first facility outside of London to secure a WELL Platinum certification, they won’t be alone for long. The Spine in Liverpool is set to get its own Platinum rating soon.

 

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