Photograph taken in Baja.

Photograph taken in Baja.

Health initiatives at hb+a Architects’ Bay Area office.

We can all agree that there aren’t enough hours in the day. We are all living, breathing, high achieving individuals, multi-tasking careers, family, charity obligations and ambitions, daily. In between some of us squeeze in fitness, marathon training & races.  Quite often a work day starts with coffee and ends with a sleeping aid or happy hour.

At hb+a Architects the culture of health goes beyond paper and talk to actual practice and advocacy. Good health is the best insurance, and it works wonders in improving the quality of work too. As much as we talk about healthy building practices, we’ve built an internal culture that promotes healthy living. While most businesses opt for a company wide happy hour, encouraging folks to reach for a  glass of wine or beer, we have been more creative with our vices.

People in shape are better able to tolerate a stressful life constantly on the flux. Fantastic management and operational practices help manage time, people and projects more efficiently, with realistic mental and physical breaks. Physical exercise has no comparison which is encouraged with our lunch time or otherwise studio runs, engaging talks outside of work.  The owner of the firm opts for a boot camp 3-4 times a week and encourages walking and biking. She has established a healthy culture by practice, she doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, sodas, energy drinks or sugary processed juices and the fridge at the office doesn’t sport any of these either.

Besides, the obvious benefits of physical exercise we encourage healthy habits listed below through practice & advocacy:

  1.  2-3 litres of water a day. This habit keeps physical energy up, nerves down and moods in check.
  2. Deep-tissue massage sessions, 15 minutes can be done quickly during the day.
  3. Acupuncture, is a great way to lower stress, an hour works as a mini-vacation in a 12 to 14 hour day.
  4. Cupping, leaves week-long bruises, but  the suction provided by cupping can loosen muscles and encourage blood flow. Cupping can help to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue etc.
  5. Chiropractic adjustments, keeps everything aligned. Again, health needs to be good to keep up with the stress and ward off seasonal illnesses.
  6. Herbal, green, white and black tea is a great alternative to coffee and different types can be sipped all day. Tea helps to hydrate and has health benefits that coffee is lacking.
  7. Going on for weeks without a break, it is sometimes,  just necessary to drop everything (hopefully after a deadline) and head to the beach, near or far, no matter what the weather is, without the phone, iPod, laptop, kindle or any other battery operated device. Connecting with nature is a great therapy, that helps to get a mental, technological break and reset the clock. We encourage folks to take at least 1 day off a week & immerse in nature.
  8. Our office fridge is always full of healthy snacks, fruits, nuts, raw treats, green elixirs and water.
  9. Work stations at our office get plenty of light and windows are always open helping to improve the indoor air quality and productivity. Operable windows is a very small measure that goes a long way to improve the Indoor Air Quality and thermal environment of a space to make it comfortable for everybody.
  10. Our desks and work spaces are ergonomic which help maintain good postures and alleviate back or neck discomfort. We encourage micro-breaks so folks can avoid prolonged periods of sitting.
  11. It is also very important to keep the building’s indoor environment clean and free of toxins to further avoid sick days and make everybody more productive in their daily activities. Some green building practices may not necessarily be healthy.The practice of “green” architecture has for example encouraged the use of fly ash as an alternative to the conventional Portland cement. However, fly ash can very well be a byproduct of hazardous waste, so be sure to check the source. Finishes need to be as non-toxic as possible.  Stained concrete makes for a very attractive, low maintenance finish, when using stained concrete make sure to not use aniline-based coloring agents, instead use only high-quality mineral pigments free of chromium and other heavy metals. A fully cured slab can also just be sealed to prevent moisture and control soil gases from entering the building, some fairly benign products include, Vocomp-25, a water-based sealer or Weather-Bos Masonry Boss.
  12. Wood framing & finishes can also be treated with safer alternatives for mold protection. A few suggestions are  Bio-Shield and Timbor, which is a water soluble borate powder. BioWash products also offers a line safer than conventional products for wood maintenance and cleaning. Plaster in general is a healthier alternative to paint and can be sealed with Okon Seal and Finish for a satin gloss. 
  13. Carpeting also contributes to several health problems and cleaning/maintenance requires further use of chemicals. AFM Safecoat has some safer alternatives to carpet shampooing. 
  14. Some other measures include unplugging computers or other equipment when not being used and turning off internet when not needed.
  15. Herbal, pure Scents:  good scents, help relax and we’re not talking about air fresheners. Be very careful about phthalates, which are usually added to products to make the smell last longer.

Somethings we may consider in the future:

  1. A punching bag (everybody can use one) or in-house kick-boxing sessions.
  2. Group Meditation sessions (may be).
  3. In-house spinning sessions
  4. Lavender plants
  5. Reiki
  6. Korean Bath Houses  and/or Russian Banya group retreats.