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March 7, 2019

With more of us banking online, here's how one credit union gets customers in the front door

  • HAPO Credit Union's Vancouver branch is the first of its kind to meet the Well Building Standard.
    Special to the Journal

    Photos from Momentum [enlarge]
    HAPO’s Vancouver branch was designed to improve the health and wellbeing of its occupants.

    The branch maximizes natural light, improving occupants’ mental clarity, energy and mood.

    The Great Recession gave the American banking system a bad name.

    Having survived the recession and a decade of historically low interest rates, banks these days are facing a new challenge via the digital revolution — through socially conscious online-only banking sites such as Aspiration — that could transform the way customers interact with banks.

    Using a bank's app, customers can seemingly satisfy all their banking needs — from deposits to transfers — with a few taps on their smartphones.

    Which raises the question: If banking can be done via fintech (financial technology) online, what's the future for the bricks and mortar branches?

    The answer: Bricks and clicks, or a combination of in-person and online banking. All of which means the traditional in-person banking experience is not dead, according to Jay Speidell, sales and marketing coordinator with Momentum, a Seattle design-build firm.

    While many banking services can be done online, Speidell said baby boomers, Gen Xers and even smartphone-savvy millennials still want the experience of walking into a bank and interacting with employees on a range of issues.

    Momentum's recent project, the HAPO Community Credit Union in Vancouver, was designed to make the banking experience — for clients and employees — happier and healthier.

    “While many banking transactions are automated, even millennials prefer to open accounts in bank branches and discuss mortgages in branches,” said Speidell. “Banks are shifting from transaction-based relationships to conversational-based relationships.”

    In other words, bank employees, while still handling the routine work of deposits and withdrawals, also work to capture the attention of clients to discuss a range of more complex and lucrative subjects such as mortgages and investing.

    The best way to do that, Speidell said, is in an environment that promotes wellness. The HAPO Community Credit Union, contemporary in its exterior design, reveals an interior design that focuses on meeting high standards in the areas of air freshness, healthy lighting, clean water and worker stations with adjustable standing desks.

    The HAPO building is the first credit union in the world to meet the Well Building Standard, according to Speidell.

    Project details

    Owner: HAPO Community Credit Union

    Design-builder, project manager, general contractor: Momentum

    Architect: ARC Architects

    Engineer: Sazan

    Specialty contractor: CompView

    Key subcontractor: Busack Electric

    Construction: Nine months

    Managed by the International Well Building Institute in New York City, the Well Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring building features that affect health of employees and customers, according to the institute. To date, the institute says there are 1,538 Well Buildings in 48 countries.

    Naturally, there is an overlap between standards for Well Building and LEED certification.

    “The key difference is that Well certification requires a focus exclusively on the health and wellbeing of the occupants,” said Nash Emrich, senior consultant with Paladino and Co. of Seattle, which assisted Momentum in receiving its Well Building certification a couple months ago.

    “LEED projects take into account the quality of the indoor environment, but not to the same depth as Well certified spaces,” Emrich said. “LEED projects must also achieve performance related to carbon footprint, maintenance of local ecological function, and other environment impact criteria. Well and LEED are tools that we use as a way to measure the performance and gauge success. For example, we would use Well as a tool to measure the performance of a design that intends to emphasize occupant wellness.”

    For the HAPO project in Vancouver, which was designed by ARC Architects, HVAC filtration eliminates volatile organic compounds and allows in fresh air, lighting matches the color and intensity of outdoor light, and the building's orientation maximizes natural lighting, as well as skylights. A water filtration system removes pathogens, sediments and pesticide and herbicide residues, according to Speidell.

    While a premium is placed on creating a wellness environment for clients, Speidell said the HAPO Credit Union design helps with recruitment of employees at a time when unemployment is at an all-time low.

    “Wellness is sort of taking off as one of the things that potential employees are really focusing on,” said Speidell. “In the past five to 10 years, the wellness environment was a gimmick, but now it's becoming a high priority and everyone needs to find an edge to recruit quality talent.”

    As tech firms from Seattle to Silicon Valley have recognized for years, employees demand working environments with perks that match modern expectations for collaborative and creative spaces, and the newest expectation among employees is a holistic work environment with cleaner air and more natural lighting, he said.

    That expectation is backed up by science that shows a relationship between the exposure to air pollution and cognitive performance. “Interior air quality is a big concern,” said Speidell.

    “When there's damaging compounds in the air, employees start to feel sluggish and removing that pollution improves their cognitive abilities significantly,” he said.

    As a design-build firm, Momentum focused on getting up to speed on the Well Building Standard.

    “The main lesson learned (from the HAPO project) was building organizational knowledge” of the Well system, Speidell said. “There was a lot of urgent work to learn the Well standards and what is required.”

    Emrich of Paladino said the initial reaction from HAPO has been positive.

    “HAPO is only the second Well-certified project we've been a part of,” he said. “The feedback on both has been positive overall.”

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