A Living Laboratory

July 11, 2016

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has moved into their new corporate headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. The office space design, which was led by ASID member Ken Wilson of Chicago-based Perkins+Will, incorporates health, wellness, well-being and sustainability as a central philosophy. The headquarters is registered for the WELL Building Standard and LEED and is on target to achieve platinum level for both certifications.

“At ASID, we are proud to have created a space that reflects what we believe – design impacts lives,” said ASID CEO Randy Fiser. “As the leader in research and innovation for the interior design profession, we applied principles that improve the health and wellness of our staff. This will have a direct and significant influence on employee productivity, efficiency and creativity. We will evaluate the success of the space and share the findings with the larger design community to advance the future of workplaces.”

View a gallery of the office space with insight from the designers.

The new 8,500-sq.-ft. ASID headquarters includes features like a circadian lighting system that mimics the daily cycle of natural light along with fully automated shades that adjust their height based on solar positioning. The sit/stand desks are unassigned to encourage mobility and collaboration.

“The goals for the ASID headquarters were set extremely high,” said Wilson. “In fact, this project may be the first to achieve both a LEED-CI Platinum certification and a WELL Platinum certification. We had to focus on every single detail and question everything.  Nothing was routine with the design of this project.”

Biophilic design strategies are throughout the space to maintain employees’ connection with nature to reduce stress levels and increase cognitive activity. Plants are incorporated in every window to give employees a direct source of natural mental and emotional inspiration. In the entry to the office, a screen displays a real-time dashboard of environmental attributes, including sound levels, air and water quality and electrical load consumption.

The primary goal was to create a space that supported health, wellness and the well-being of employees, which would improve the organization’s productivity, engagement and retention. ASID incorporated features using the seven principles of the WELL as a benchmark.

Air & Water: Carbon filters were installed in the air-handling units and the water purification systems. All cleaning and chemical storage units are closed from adjacent spaces and exhausted.

Nourishment: Fruits and vegetables are always available to staff. The hydration station provides filtered water to encourage non-sugary beverages. The preferred event caterer specializes in fresh menu options.

Light: In addition to the circadian lighting, 90 percent of the occupied office space has direct access to natural light.

Fitness: The sit/stand desks encourage physical activity and consistent movement. The building provides access to a gym that offers various modes of exercise.

Comfort: The acoustics of the space are designed so the collaboration areas reduce sound levels. With six different styles of meeting rooms featuring whiteboard walls, TV screens and notation tables, staff members have the option to select the area that best fits their gathering.

Mind: The office has a dedicated wellness room for relaxation and mental pauses. The room is acoustically engineered to limit outside noise.

To help build the future of workplaces, ASID’s office will operate as a living laboratory. Staff members volunteered to participate in a pre- and post-occupancy research study. Funded by the ASID Foundation and partnered with Cornell University, the pre-occupancy study measured employees’ interactions, movements and environmental conditions. The study will be replicated after six months to evaluate how the design of the new space has contributed to behavioral changes toward healthier lifestyles and increases in productivity.