Inside the Beijing 'Office' Inhabited by Human Guinea Pigs
by Helen Roxburgh
In the fake offices and homes of the Well Living Lab, scientists monitor volunteers to identify ways to make them healthier and more productive.
To outsiders, the workers in this under-construction office on the northern outskirts of Beijing will look like a normal group of employees – but the workplace will be like no other in China.
Every movement of the volunteers, students and interns working there will be monitored, measured, analysed and assessed. A team of scientists will be watching these human guinea pigs in a simulated real-life environment with sensors, microphones and wearable technology to monitor their physical, mental and emotional responses to the environment or building design.
When complete, the 25,000 sq ft Well Living Lab, the first scientific research centre in Asia to focus on the indoor environment, will feature a range of simulated homes and offices. The facility will make small variations to the environment – in lighting, air quality and noise levels, for example – and monitor how they affect workers’ health, happiness and productivity. The research findings will be used to change the way future buildings are designed.