Mirvac delivers Australia's healthiest workplace

After achieving Australia’s first WELL rating for 200 George Street in Sydney, Mirvac’s team learnt many valuable lessons – but the biggest one is to start early with a clear goal, says Lucy Pullin.

Mirvac’s headquarters in the EY Centre recently received gold certification from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

IWBI’s WELL Building Standard measures, certifies and monitors the performance of building features that support better health and wellbeing of occupants.

Presenting Mirvac with its WELL rating, Rick Fedrizzi, Chairman and CEO of IWBI, said Mirvac’s team “underscored how building science and bio science can work seamlessly together to deliver a higher level of health and wellbeing”.

Pullin, Mirvac’s design delivery manager for the project, said her team’s main challenge was making the decision to target a Gold WELL rating after the base building was already under construction and the fitout at tender stage.

“Ideally, the decision to progress with WELL would be made at the briefing stage. While a lot of what we were already doing aligned with WELL, there were minor things we had to change,” she explains.

These were often small tweaks, such as increasing the number of plantings – which now number almost 1,200, modifying joinery designs to ensure against pests and to create spaces for the storage of yoga mats.

“It is obviously easier when you start from scratch. Start early with a clear goal is my advice.”

As WELL is a new rating tool in the Australian market, Pullin says Mirvac’s early adoption meant there was “limited knowledge” about how to make it work in an Australian context.

WELL awards credits across seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Mirvac’s headquarters met the WELL criteria through a range of initiatives – from weekly pilates classes and an online wellness library, to the Song Kitchen, which provides healthy food options and the installation of SAMBA indoor environmental quality monitoring devices to measure and ensure optimal air quality.

The breadth of the initiatives Pullin’s team rolled out demanded a significant shift in thinking around building design and management.

“Business alignment is essential with WELL. It’s about a lot more than the physical space – a lot of the credits relate to business ethos, so you need to get buy-in across the business.

“We had to reach out to everyone across the business and every department, from the HR team to the facilities managers who control cleaning.”

Mirvac also appointed WELL ‘champions’ and established a dedicated wellness committee to kick-start some of the staff programs.

“Mirvac staff have been really interested, engaged and committed to helping us get the WELL rating. They understood it wasn’t something we could do behind closed doors. It is more than a documentation process. Everything had to be implemented – and it really has transformed our workplace.”

Mirvac has conducted a series of internal indoor environment quality surveys of both the former tenancy at 60 Margaret Street and the new headquarters, which revealed a significant increase in employee satisfaction. Staff have reported their performance, health and productivity has increased by 35 per cent since moving into 200 George Street.

Beyond the productivity boost, Pullin says the WELL rating is a source of pride among staff.

“I hear people telling visitors about the pilates classes and healthy café – they are really proud to work for Mirvac.”

Following Mirvac’s rating, the Green Building Council of Australia announced a “stronger” partnership with IWBI to drive the uptake of WELL-rated buildings. The GBCA and IWBI have developed guidance for project teams seeking both WELL and Green Star ratings to reduce the time and cost of certification. Education, training, and product development of other WELL standards, including a community rating tool, is also on the cards.
Chief executive officer Romilly Madew says the GBCA’s “ambitious agenda cannot be achieved in isolation” and that it is only by working with other organisations that “we can amplify our efforts – and help our industry become a world-leader in healthy buildings in much the same way it already leads the world in sustainable buildings.”