Well-being in legal workplaces has long been an issue for law firms to contend with and Meredith Connell achieved certification for ‘WELL certification’ after the design and move to their new premises at the height of the Covid pandemic.
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The WELL Building Standard certification is the first for a New Zealand law firm and which contains over 100 features based on 10 WELL concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community.
The compliance for Meredith Connell was achieved in part through the integration of art or a sense of human delight, according to a media report celebrating the firm’s accomplishment.
An interview with MC Managing Partner Steve Haszard talked of the prioritization of wellbeing and health in the design of the firm’s new office in Auckland, which was occupied during the Covid pandemic – a time when health and welfare were top of mind for most businesses.
The project team delivered on a host of health and well-being strategies, from deploying high-tech acoustic profiling in meeting rooms and terrariums to repurposing rainwater from the roof.
Six artworks were commissioned and sit throughout the project, reflecting contemporary values and representing six “neighbourhoods” around the themes of Land, People, Exploration & Immigration, Diversity, Enterprise & the Human Mind and Capital.
The office’s interior spaces were centralised in ‘terraniums’.
The reception area, along with formal and informal meeting rooms, are located within the firm’s terrariums which are designed as dynamic spaces, with plants growing with LED lighting and watering systems.
Artwork has also been provided to provide a sense of place.
The contemporary New Zealand artists were commissioned to provide their interpretation on the themes: Israel Tangaroa Birch (land); Xoë Hall (people); Yuki Kihara, Aotearoa’s representative at the 2022 Venice Biennale (exploration and immigration); Evan Woodruffe (diversity), Mary-Louise Browne (enterprise and the human mind) and Michael Hight (capital).
“Holistically, the entire MC office incorporates celebrations of culture and place, integrates art and gives the occupant a sense of human delight,” said Steve Haszard in a media interview about the certification and office project.
“During the weekly building progress meetings, it was not uncommon for contractors to whip out their phones and show, using an app or website, where certain container ships were located in the world at that exact moment,” he said.
“This evidenced how earnestly the team were managing supply chain delays, having regard to both practical completion deadlines and the WELL framework within which our build was designed.
“There were particular concerns that the supply chain delays could cause issues with sourcing furnishings that satisfied the WELL criteria in relation to VOC emission thresholds.”
The firm has also had its own mock courtroom built in the office for training its contingent of trial lawyers.