Improving health and wellness through the WELL Building Standard™

29 January 2021

At Rockfon, we believe that human health depends on the environment that directly surrounds us every day. With 90% of our time is spent indoors, designing spaces that focus on wellbeing and sustainability is a growing industry standard that can no longer be overlooked.

Office building Parallel, Oslo. WELL building standard.

Parallel office building, Oslo built following the WELL Building Standards

The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI) is leading the global movement to transform buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. By placing people at the heart of design, construction, operations and development decisions, the WELL Building Standard™ prioritizes human health and well-being.  

To learn more we spoke with Jessica Cooper, the Chief Commercial Officer at IWBI, who shares her insights on the importance of WELL certification, information about the recently launched WELL v2, and how to select the right materials for healthy buildings.

Importance of WELL Certification

What is the main difference between WELL and other building rating schemes? What is the main differentiator?

WELL takes a people-first approach to prioritizing human health and well-being. It is an evidence-based and performance-verified certification program, meaning that projects must prove that space is not only designed for health but that it performs for health. Projects that meet WELL Certification have demonstrated that the health, happiness and productivity of the people who use these spaces are the top priority. For companies, this could mean increased attraction and retention of top-notch talent. For residences, this could mean healthier families and improved quality of life.

Is there a quantified economic benefit associated with having a certification like WELL in your building? What are the benefits of selecting the right materials for the indoor climate?

Research from WELL projects brings to light the measurable impact and benefits of WELL Certification, such as enhanced air quality and improved employee collaboration. One example is how Cundall’s office in London [WELL Certified Gold], which focused on improved indoor air quality, including continuous monitoring of carbon dioxide (CO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), has saved the company £200,000 due to a reduction of four sick days per year per employee and a 27% reduction in staff turnover.

Is there a quantified economic benefit associated with having a certification like WELL for the Building Owner? What should be the main reason a Building Owner should invest in WELL?

Building owners tell us they are seeking WELL Certification to attract & retain high-quality tenants, maximize the financial performance of rental rates and resale value, minimise the risk of incidents and obsolescence and improve shareholder relations by increasing their GRESB and ESG scores for health and well-being. They also place great value on the competitive differentiation and marketing narrative that WELL provides them.

Projects that meet WELL Certification have demonstrated that the health, happiness and productivity of the people who use these spaces are the top priority.

Jessica Cooper

Chief Commercial Officer at International WELL Building Institute

What are some of the benefits that the occupants can see in a “WELL Building”?

WELL is made up of both policy and design features, meaning that some WELL features may be more tangible than others. Elements such as biophilia or access to nature that help reduce stress and improve mental health, circadian lighting design to support energy throughout the day and sleep at night, or ergonomic furnishings to encourage movement and physical support are a few examples of design features in WELL that can be immediately seen when entering a space.

How important is it to have a WELL Building in a post-pandemic world?

Now more than ever we will need to deploy our buildings - homes, offices, schools - as vehicles for public health. Human health is inextricably linked to both the health of our planet and the strength of socioeconomic institutions that support everyday life. We are optimistic that corporations, the capital markets and society at large will come out of this crisis stronger and smarter, and the importance of human health to the global economy will be even more broadly acknowledged.

Version 2 of the WELL standard

You recently launched the second version of the WELL standard. What was the need that led to the revision in the first place?

WELL is backed by science and built on evidence. We are continuously processing new research that enables us to more effectively transform buildings and organizations in ways that advance health and well-being to help people thrive. We’ve channelled all that we have learned since launching the original version of WELL (WELL v1) into a more robust, accessible, adaptable and equitable rating system. The WELL version 2 continues to be anchored by industry best practices and evidence-backed innovations and serves as the foundation upon which the entire WELL ecosystem is built.

How is version 2 standard better than version 1?

WELL v2 is the most rigorously tested and vetted version of the WELL Building Standard (WELL) to date. Built on the pioneering foundation of the first version of the WELL Building Standard (WELL v1), WELL v2 draws expertise from thousands of WELL users, practitioners, medical professionals, public health experts and building scientists around the world.

Now more than ever we will need to deploy our buildings - homes, offices, schools - as vehicles for public health.

Jessica Cooper

Chief Commercial Officer at the International WELL Building Institute

Could you list some of the most important changes?

The suite of enhancements you’ll find in WELL v2 is aimed at making WELL more flexible, inclusive and optimized for all types of projects in every part of the world. We understand that health concerns vary all around the globe, which is why we’ve created more pathways in WELL that accommodate localized adaptations.

WELL v2 also expands the number of health-focused concepts that WELL covers from seven to ten (Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, and Community, plus an additional category that awards Innovation) and reflects up-to-date research. Across the performance-driven criteria, WELL v2 takes steps to prepare the market for continuous monitoring and ensures that ongoing performance remains a top priority. Through customized scorecards and an evolving feature library, the WELL v2 framework empowers project teams to pursue the features that are most valuable and impactful.

Selecting the right materials for healthy buildings

Could you tell us a bit more about the role of acoustics in healthy buildings of tomorrow?

Exposure to noise sources, such as traffic and transportation has been shown to hinder the health and comfort of people in several different ways. For instance, the effects of exterior noise from transportation or industrial sources have been linked to sleep disturbance, hypertension and the reduction of mental arithmetic skills in school-aged children.

The WELL Sound concept aims to bolster occupant health and well-being through the identification and mitigation of acoustical comfort parameters that shape occupant experiences in the built environment.

How important is it to select the right materials for your new building to be WELL certified?

The WELL Materials concept aims to reduce human exposure, whether direct or through environmental contamination, to chemicals that may impact health during the construction, remodelling, furnishing and operation of buildings. WELL requires projects to meet features across all 10 Concepts, including Materials, so understanding the material composition of furnishings will be an important step in the process.

Discover how Rockfon can help you on your WELL certification journey here.

What is the role of ceiling materials towards WELL certification, especially in the categories of acoustics, lighting and materials?

Reducing Surfaces. When open collaborative spaces lack acoustical absorption at ceilings or partial height barriers, workers can become distracted by reflected sound, especially if that speech is perceptible. Ceilings typically provide the greatest area of coverage where highly absorptive materials can offer the best performance in reducing reverberation and controlling speech intelligibility and occupied noise levels.

We are continuously processing new research that enables us to more effectively transform buildings and organizations in ways that advance health and well-being to help people thrive.

Jessica Cooper

Chief Commercial Officer at the International WELL Building Institute

Any advice on architects and engineers on the properties they need to pay attention to selecting new building materials?

Our advice to architects and engineers would be to consider performance across all 10 concepts of WELL - Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, and Community, plus an additional category that awards Innovation. Specifically, it’s helpful to think about everything from how the ingredients within the building material could impact air quality to how the use of the material could support (or hinder) acoustical comfort to whether the aesthetic could contribute to overall light quality and/or biophilia. All of these aspects play an important role in the overall health and wellness impacts within a space.

 

Do you want to have your building WELL certified? Then choose Rockfon and discover how we can help on your WELL journey

Visit the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI) website to learn more.

 

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