by Aphrodite Knoop
Can a building make you sick? Can a building help you heal or support wellbeing? The answer is “yes” to both.
In fact, wellness is set to be the next “trillion-dollar industry.” That’s according to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
What does this mean for the building industry? Quite simply, it’s time to for a more holistic approach to become mainstream–one that goes beyond green to put people and wellbeing at the center of design.
Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI) explains, “Better data, more research, additional evidence is demonstrating that the impact of our buildings and communities can be an even larger contributor to your health than we realized.”
Putting human health and comfort first is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the practical and profitable thing to do.
Over the past decade, the U.S. marketplace has become more in tune with creating green buildings. While green efforts are geared to creating a healthier planet through reduction of resource consumption, they don’t necessarily focus on the wellbeing of occupants. The market is pushing for a holistic approach that goes beyond “green” to also embrace health, comfort, and performance.
According to a report by the World Green Building Council, people are increasingly demanding healthier, more attractive work environments and housing in sustainable live-work-play neighborhoods. As a result, “…forward-looking companies are increasingly choosing and prioritizing sustainable buildings situated within sustainable communities that will attract and retain top talent.” The report underscored the fact that “…workplaces with natural light, thermal comfort and minimal contaminants in cleaning agents help to reduce absenteeism and enhance job satisfaction.”[i] A recent Harvard study also found that “…cognitive scores of occupants in green buildings were 61 percent higher than those in conventional environments.[ii]
In addition, it can cost thousands of dollars to recruit replacement personnel, and there are additional costs around the months to truly onboard personnel. Healthy retention of workers has stabilizing and financial benefits to an organization… if improvements can be made in the built environment to ensure this, then that’s a worthwhile investment.
Consider that we spend 90% of our time indoors. That’s why the built environment has such a profound influence on our overall health, wellbeing, and productivity—not to mention profitability. You can see how this translates to business costs:[iii]
- 92% personnel
- 6% operations + maintenance
- 2% design + construction
In other words, personnel costs far outweigh any other building and operational cost over the life of a building. Yet green building standards, which look at environmental impacts, stop short when it comes to human health and resilience.
New tools are needed to guide architects, builders, operators, owners, and occupants. In creating high-performance buildings now focused on the direct physical and mental effects of the occupants, sustainability transforms from resource and ecological mitigation to include habitat design for the human species.
Enter the WELL Building Standard®, the second wave of sustainability and the first building standard to focus exclusively on human health and wellness in design. A relative newcomer to the AEC industry roster of green building rating systems, WELL is designed to work seamlessly with theLiving Building Challenge, LEED®, and others.
Here’s WELL in a nutshell:
- WELL is an independently verified, performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of buildings that impact human health and well-being.
- WELL Certified™ spaces are designed to improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, productivity and performance of people working, living, shopping, or playing there.
- WELL is composed of over 100 features that can be applied to each building project for a customized approach. Each WELL feature is designed to address issues that impact health and wellness through design, operations and behavior.
- WELL measures building attributes affecting health by focusing on 10 concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement,Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, Community.
WELL can be applied across real estate sectors, but it is specifically applicable to commercial and institutional buildings including office buildings, multifamily housing, healthcare and educational environments.
WELL starts with the designers and builders, but it is the owners and operators who must commit to the long-term effectiveness of creating healthy indoor places and experiences.
As reported in the National Real Estate Investor (NREI), there’s growing demand for buildings that promote health and wellness. Furthermore, high-performance buildings have proven beneficial to both building owners and tenants.
Among the many benefits are occupant health and well-being, lower operating and maintenance costs, higher lease rates and occupancy rates, increased productivity and profitability, enhanced corporate image and prestige value.
Curious as to how WELL certification can enhance your project? Get in touch…
Also, be sure to tune into the next installment of this series, where I’ll explore how WELL can be used to create exemplary healthcare environments that adopt principals of biophilia to support a more productive, happier workforce and improved patient outcomes.
[iii] Osso, Annette. Sustainable Building Technical Manual.[Online] 1994. Public Technology, Inc. http://smartenergy.illinois.edu/pdf/Archive/SustainableBuildingTechManual.pdf.16