WELL Done: Delos’ New York Headquarters
In just a few short years, Delos has established itself as a pioneer in creating indoor spaces that promote human health and wellness. Most notably, the company helped develop the WELL Building Standard, the first rating system to focus attention on the health of the people who live or work inside a building.
When it came time for Delos to upgrade its own offices to a larger space, it only made sense that the firm would pursue WELL Certification through the International WELL Building Institute. The new, 19,000sf space leaves no wellness stone unturned. Flexible working stations encourage movement. Lighting systems mimic circadian rhythms. Plant walls and other foliage—plus floor-to-ceiling exterior windows and an outdoor terrace—support the space’s biophilic design. A “wellness” café even provides healthy snacks for employees and visitors alike. With features and operational programs like these (plus many more), the space was officially certified as WELL Platinum this spring.
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But Delos’ new headquarters aims beyond wellness too, targeting Living Building Challenge and LEED v4 certification to create the most sustainable environment they can.
“We really want to showcase sustainability in every regard, from the built environment itself to its effect on people. We targeted certification in the leading sustainability programs to show that all of those things can be achieved,” says Paul Scialla, Delos founder and CEO.
So many added sustainability and wellness goals really did not pose a major challenge on the construction side, says Structure Tone project manager Eileen McCarthy. “The build-out wasn’t the hard part. The building is the building, with normal construction approaches for the most part,” she says. “Making sure we had the right products and the right documentation was really where we had to get organized.”
The Living Building Challenge (LBC), for example, includes a materials “red list,” which outlines the chemicals that cannot be found in any LBC-certified space. Some of those chemicals—asbestos, lead, and others—are limited in most modern construction. But some are still commonly found in typical materials, like the hexavalent chromium in certain types of sheet metal or PVC in the jacket of most cabling. Ensuring the job specified compliant materials that still met the design vision, schedule and budget added a new wrinkle to the team’s typical preconstruction and construction process.
“Generally, the construction industry is familiar with LEED. But the Living Building Challenge is still new to most of us,” says McCarthy. “Many of our subs aren’t that familiar with it, and some common building elements, like sprinkler heads, have limited options for compliant alternatives.”
To help get a handle on the many requirements, McCarthy and her project team partners—Tyler Symons from Structure Tone and Janna Wandzilak from Delos—compiled all the requirements for each rating system into one master checklist. A seven-page request-for-information form not only outlined the criteria they needed to follow as they worked with the subcontractors to purchase materials but also left a clear paper trail of each decision.
“It would have been a mad scramble if we had to chase all that paperwork with our subs at the end of the job,” McCarthy says. “Doing it upfront kept us organized and really pinpointed where we would have to do some extra work.”
Delos’ new space is not only a comfortable, healthy workplace for employees, but it’s also a working test lab for the methods and outcomes the company’s work fosters. Sensors are located throughout the office to collect data on air quality, acoustics, thermal lighting, steps taken up and down the staircase, and myriad other factors. “We display that data right in our main lobby so everyone can see it,” says Scialla. “It’s a great way to showcase the invisible impacts.”
The office also serves, of course, as the “model home” for Delos as they meet with companies about the potential of applying WELL principles in their own spaces.
“We’re doing tons of tours for clients, prospective clients and industry partners,” Scialla says. “It’s been an incredible tool, and the feedback has been universal. Our own folks, industry folks, our clients—they love the space and all agree that this is exactly the way a workplace should be.”