March 28th, 2017
Nearly 90% of the average American’s time is spent indoors.
This is just one reason why we think it’s important that all our building designs give occupants the opportunity to be outside. The many documented benefits of even as little as 5 min. per day of outdoor time include increased productivity, improved health and wellness, and reduced stress — and happier people. Beyond such “biophilic” benefits, outdoor space also can enhance a project’s design by adding a dimension or augmenting context. Here at Humphries Poli Architects, we actively build on a project’s functional program to design a facility that improves the experience of the occupants and the larger public, while contributing positively to its surroundings..
Below we’ve shared several recent projects – office, residential, and civic – that illustrate our approach.
Two regional headquarters buildings for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), one in Greeley and one in Pueblo, illustrate the benefits of including outdoor spaces in an office environment. CDOT’s Region 4 Headquarters in Greeley (completed 2015) originally included an open-air courtyard to provide a gathering space for office workers. During the design process, to offer better shelter from the harsh wind, sun, and snow of this prairie location, we enclosed the courtyard. It still serves as a bright, daylit, airy space, but now it is inviting at any time of year. It quickly became what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls a “third place” for CDOT employees, a place to step away from their desks for a time or for small, informal meetings.
Our design for CDOT’s Region 2 Headquarters in Pueblo, scheduled to be complete in 2017, benefits from Region 4’s example. After seeing its success in Greeley, we incorporated an outdoor space into this project’s initial program. A milder climate permits an open air space, which we located centrally to both office and maintenance staff, and adjacent to the indoor meeting rooms. Protected by the mass of the building on the east, south, and west, the courtyard (pictured in the featured image above) is shaded during the summer months. It is open to the north to allow large staff gatherings to overflow into the parking area. The space is programmed with hardscape and softscape areas to host meetings, fitness activities, and a gardening club.
In HPA’s residential buildings, outdoor spaces play a similarly big role. At our mixed-use projects , Link 35 and the Welton Park Apartments (both completed in 2016), they add to the urban environment while providing residents with a place to get outside while still feeling at home. They can serve as a social space or a place to be alone, simply enjoying the fresh air. As designed into these residential projects, outdoor spaces also provide relief from the “zero lot line” development of the surrounding urban infill. At the same time, they invite the street into each complex, creating a safe, semi-public space for occupants and the public to interact.
With every project, we determine how to create the best possible design for all stakeholders: client, user, visitor, neighbor, community, and society. In the original RFP for designing the entry court at the renovated McNichols Building, the City and County of Denver requested the re-creation of the former grand entry staircase. When this was found to not be feasible, we used this idea of the “grand moment” to design a space that provides both a public extension of and a welcoming access to the interior gallery areas. This space now provides a popular area for event attendees to gather and greet one another.
By weighing the benefits of each potential design decision, our goal is a facility that will be widely appreciated, well taken care of, and long-lasting. Providing indoor-outdoor spaces is just one way that we continually strive to design buildings that give back.
- National Human Activity Pattern Survey, 2001. The survey showed 86.9% of test subjects’ time was spent in indoor locations. This oft-cited finding seems impossible. That’s a lot of time. But consider your average day: at home, in the car, in the workplace, lunch at the desk, back in the car, then home again. This survey formed the basis for much of the interior environment considerations for the LEED and WELL standards as a way of recognizing the one-sidedness of our living experience.