Cultivating Plants and Bees – in Midtown

The architects at COOKFOX in Manhattan are on a mission.

Not satisfied with earning the first LEED Gold certification in Manhattan for original office on the Avenue of the Americas, they’ve stepped up their game in their new space on West 57th.

There, the LEED Platinum and WELL Gold-Certified™ office features an urban farm, active apiaries and three planted terraces. Located on the former Automobile Row, it once housed the Fisk Tire headquarters, designed in 1921 by Carrère & Hastings.

It’s been significantly updated for 21st-century life and work. “We’re trying to right-size the amount of fresh air we bring in,” says Rick Cook, partner in the firm. “With WELL, we monitor the air quality policy and heating and cooling policy.”

The WELL Standard, administered by the International Well Building Institute, marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based health and wellness interventions, focusing on seven concepts: air, light, nourishment, water, fitness, mind and comfort.

Light, in particular, is important. “On average we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors and most people don’t get enough access to light in general or daylight or the right color spectrum,” he says. “We get blue in the morning and then much warmer at night, with things like sunsets, fireplaces and candlelight.”

The result is a lack of sleep and an increase in stress – but that can be managed with the WELL standard. “People feel good when they feel connected to nature, and they do better too,” he says. “We’re able to reduce stress by connecting people to nature.”

Of the firm’s 5,486 square feet of terrace space, more than half is planted with sedum, grasses, river birches and butterfly bushes. “There’s an edible garden, plus the Three Sisters – corn, pole beans and squash – and tomatoes,” he says.

Not to mention the bees, which produce about 60 pounds of honey each spring and fall. It’s poured into jars and gifted to employees and clients alike. “In early summer it’s pale and very golden,” he says. “In the fall it looks like dark beer.”

It all adds up to a work environment that’s integrated into nature in Midtown Manhattan. And there’s another benefit beyond health and well-being. “It helps recruit talent,” he says.

That makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place with fresh vegetables, edible plants – and free honey?

For more, go here.

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