Over the past few decades, green building rating systems such as LEED and BREEAM have been firm fixtures of the global AEC industry and have helped the drive towards a more sustainable, resource efficient and environmentally conscious built environment. Whilst these rating systems have, to some extent, considered the comfort of the occupants using the buildings, the primary focus has been on efficiency and the impact our buildings have on the external environment.
This, of course, is a highly worthy cause which we must continue to pursue if we are to mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, the health and wellbeing of building occupants – now captured in the first-of-its-kind WELL Building Standard - is quickly establishing itself as another important focus for the industry. This is unsurprising, really, given the wider trend for wellness currently sweeping the globe.
In 2015, the Global Wellness Institute valued the total global wellness market at a staggering $3.7 trillion, covering everything from wellness tourism to healthy eating and nutrition. However, it was the global wellness real estate market that was found to be one of the fastest-growing wellness sectors between 2013-2015, growing an impressive 19% from $100 billion to $118.6 billion. In the same period, the global workplace wellness industry also grew 6.4%, highlighting a growing awareness amongst employers of how the office environment can affect the health, wellbeing and productivity of their staff – and, consequently, their overheads. (You can read more on this subject in our previous blog ‘Can productivity be modelled?’).
While we are well aware by now of the cognitive benefits arising from buildings that are designed with occupants’ health and wellbeing in mind (thanks to the findings of research such as the COGfx study), and of the economic benefits this can offer employers, there are certainly other factors contributing to the growing interest in “healthy” buildings.
A 2016 report from Saint-Gobain UK found that 30% of homeowners, buyers and renters would be willing to pay more for a home that would not impact on their health and wellbeing, highlighting citizens’ growing interest in their own personal health and wellbeing. With the prevalence of common health issues, such as asthma, allergies caused by poor indoor air quality, and increasing reports of sick building syndrome, homeowners and tenants are ready to demand higher wellbeing standards within their properties.
The technology in the healthy buildings space is also progressing and there has even been talk of smartphone pollution sensors and apps which will have the ability to alert users when they are entering a “sick” building. You wouldn’t choose to eat in a restaurant with a poor TripAdvisor review, so just imagine how this sort of technology might shape our decisions on where we choose to work and live.
There is no doubt that we need to turn our attention to improving our buildings in a way which supports the health and wellbeing of the people using them. However, the question clients are asking us today is – will it be feasible to pursue WELL certification for my project?
In order to help answer the question of feasibility for our clients, IES Consulting have recently extended their services to include early-phase WELL feasibility or fit assessments. Led by our WELL AP, Mark Knipfer, the service will help clients to establish the level of investment, or the changes to their typical process, that may be required to achieve a WELL certification. Beyond this, we can also offer WELL certification facilitation management and more surgical milestone review services including: a mid-point certification plan check-up, a pre-submission peer review, a performance verification pre-audit, and/or a curative action assessment following receipt of an initial WELL report, to assist throughout the entire certification process.
Fortunately, the WELL Building Standard has also been closely aligned with a number of existing building rating systems so there is ample opportunity for project teams around the world to align WELL objectives to more familiar certification goals. The International Well Building Institute (IWBI) have already published their Crosswalk Guidance for BREEAM, Green Star and, most recently, LEED, to identify synergies between WELL and existing green building standards and to help streamline efforts for those seeking to achieve dual certification for their projects.
There is definite value to be gained from aligning our green building objectives more closely with health and wellbeing concepts. So, if you’re interested in pursuing WELL certification for your projects but not sure where to start, read more about our WELL services here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more on how our team can help.