Taking a Human-First Approach to Building Design for your ESG Strategy

January 31, 2024

Between the pandemic and major climate events (Ireland is seeing unprecedented flooding in urban areas even as we type), the last few years has seen all of us becoming more health-conscious and environmentally aware.

With the world facing more environmental and societal challenges than ever before, an organisation’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy has become a deciding factor, not just for investors, but for potential new clients and hires.

What might not seem obvious is that applying human-centric design principles in your building’s design and engineering should be part of your ESG strategy, and could be a major contributor in reaching your ESG goals.

ESG is fundamentally about being more human

The three elements of ESG help to guide ethical business practices.

  • Environmental (E): Does a company waste or conserve resources? How does it manage waste and greenhouse gas emissions? Does it embrace sustainability and work to reduce its carbon footprint?
  • Social (S): What is a company’s attitude to employee welfare and human rights? How does it interact with society and the community (local as well as global). Does it take a responsible role in building positive relationships?
  • Governance (G): Does a company act in a transparent and honest way? Does it manage risk and protect the wellbeing of its stakeholders? The governance element of ESG has a direct impact on the environmental and social ones in the ESG equation.

Human-first building design addresses not just E, but S and G too

You might already be able to imagine how building design can help reduce your company’s environmental impact. But putting The Human in the Building first can also help to meet social and governance commitments.

Choices made on building elements including power supply, water supply, lighting, insulation, and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) can improve your energy efficiency, reduce your carbon footprint, and help your business act more sustainably.

But these decisions also have positive implications socially, protecting the health and safety of your employees and improving their working conditions with better air quality and climate management. This will help to address concerns many now have about working in close proximity to others and “breathing the same air” following the pandemic.

In terms of governance, approving these design decisions could contribute to board and committee effectiveness, and reflect well on your organisation’s ethics and compliance score. With risk management and wellness being components of the governance pillar in ESG, you can understand how designing a building around people rather than headcount is a powerful decision to make for the future of your business

People have changed. Buildings need to change too.

We’ve touched before on the challenges many companies are experiencing right now with encouraging their employees to return to the office. During the pandemic, a lot of businesses took the opportunity to upgrade their buildings and workplaces with refurbishments or retrofits.

Some companies took on board the fears and concerns their workforce had around coming back to the workplace, and what made them feel so comfortable and secure about working remotely at home. Equipped with this information, these companies anticipated the changes people needed to see once the world had the pandemic in its rear-view mirror and its focus on getting back to business.

Those organisations are finding it less difficult to welcome their workers back. Because ESG is not just a focus for investors. It has become an area of interest for employees too, with so much societal change and debate – particularly around diversity and inclusion and human rights – during the pandemic.

Making work feel like home 

One of the biggest positives of working at home for many people was the quiet and distraction-free nature of not being surrounded by colleagues speaking on the phone or discussing the latest show on Netflix. Areas where workers have the option to focus on their tasks should be a consideration in any office redesign or refurb.

Another positive, which might seem small, was being able to make their lunch in their own kitchen, and save themselves the expense of a shop-bought sandwich or salad. Kitchen and dining facilities need to be reviewed in this light. Can they be improved with more fridge or prep space, or more common areas provided to enjoy a break socially with workmates?

The added benefit of home was that so many people developed a healthier exercise habit. Without the commute, they could get walks in before and/or after work or use the time to get to the gym. Have you thought about introducing gym facilities or upgrading the ones you have in place?

The workplace as a source of happiness

For all the problems with persuading people to return to the office, there are many who couldn’t wait to get back – those who didn’t have the luxury of a spare room or garden office, or those who lived with three other people sharing the kitchen table as their “office”.

These are the people who were happy to come back to work. Happy people are healthier people, and people who feel good are more productive, more committed to their work, and less likely to leave the company. But even workplace-reluctant employees can be encouraged to feel happy about being in the office again.

The workplace environment should promote health, happiness and wellbeing by feeling like an escape. This can be enabled through biophilic design and environmental features such as natural plants and vegetation as well as improved natural daylight to stimulate the mind and senses.

Metec Project: AIB HQ Molesworth Street

Our brief was to turn this existing grey box (an unfinished commercial space with bare floors and stud walls with no plumbing or electrical works) into a world-class office fit-out. This would have been a challenge in itself for this retrofit, but No.15 Molesworth Street being a protected building made it doubly so.

We designed and engineered the piping, ductwork, core and plant for a full catering kitchen and restaurant facility, while the ventilation system exceeded modern office building standards. Our team used building information modelling (BIM) to minimise onsite construction co-ordination time and meet key delivery dates. 

The finished project achieved WiredScore and WELL certification as well as a LEED Platinum rating.

You can learn more about the benefits of BIM and 3D modelling for your next development in this blogpost

At Metec, we design buildings for people

Buildings produced or refurbished with sustainability in mind have been shown to improve the engagement, productivity, and health and safety of occupants. There are savings to be made too in not only energy consumption, but in operational and maintenance costs. 

If you would like to know more about our human-centric approach to designing office spaces, and how building design can help you meet your ESG commitments, get in touch with the team at Metec today or visit the human in the building.

Do you want to read more on “The Human in the Building"? 

Article 1: “It’s time we realised that office buildings need to be built around people and not business”

Article 2: “The most important component in the design of a building is the human being who will inhabit it”

Green circleBernard Denver photo
We're here to help you out.
Get in touch