Written by Will Procter

Healthy Buildings

The WELL standard

During the last decade the industry has quickly evolved to tackle climate change, energy and carbon reduction – this mindset is now established and engrained as ‘part of the day job’ for building designers and operators.

Concurrently, significant scientific study has been undertaken into the effects of the built environment on our cognition, health, productivity & general wellbeing and people are starting to realise that creating a better environment for our workers can have a far bigger impact on the bottom line than almost any other form of investment. The WELL Building Standard is the first of its kind to focus on strategies to support environments designed to enhance health and wellbeing. The standard targets our main body systems which enable humans to live, learn and work, grouped into 10 main concepts (Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal comfort, Sound, Material, Mind and Community) The benefits of each intervention are evidenced by a solid body of scientific work designed to have a small positive impact on our human experiences.

The recent release of v2 of the standard offers the perfect opportunity to get on board with the WELL movement and really make positive changes to the buildings we occupy with alternative schemes such as FITWEL and the BCO Wellness Roadmap for Offices offering different pathways to achieving the same outcome – better buildings for us all.

Whichever route you choose, full or partial assessment, ‘in principle’ measures incorporated into new projects or refurbishments; this will certainly be a differentiator for your organisation, helping attract and retain happy and productive staff. Businesses typically spend up to 90% of their overhead costs on salaries and benefits, around 9% for rent & operations and 1% for energy. It therefore follows that the space we create for employees should be focused on getting the best out of the people we invest in.

Better human environments
As building designers and operators, we can influence human environments for the better through the adoption of WELL concepts – for example, the Mind concept not only looks to support mental health (which affects 30% of adults during their lifetime & costs the global economy an estimated $1tn annually) but also seeks to create a positive environment by offering access to nature and advice on strategies to enhance a positive state of mind. The concept also looks at support programs to discuss mental health relating to sleep, stress and substance use.

A theme running through the Movement concept is the promotion of activity at work with the introduction of active furnishings, improved ergonomics and alternative breakout areas. Using stairways, offering fitness classes and encouraging active commutes via walking running and cycling are all enhancing fitness and activity – the increased interactions this brings with fellow workers will also foster a sense of community and team spirit.

Internal environments which are thermally comfortable all year round, flooded with fresh air and making the best possible use of natural light will inevitably produce a greater sense of wellbeing and improve our experiences. Building designers, Architects, MEP Engineers, Building Physicists and Lighting Designers all play a pivotal role in getting it right on the drawing board, but will space churn and layout changes have potential unintended consequences for the users? Maintaining a WELL certification will involve continuous monitoring and validation of these key indicators to ensure building performance right through the lifecycle.

In summary, the wellbeing movement is whipping up real interest – we firmly believe that adoption of the principles for the next generation of building design can only have positive impacts for us all.

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