Paul Chatwin, associate at engineering consultancy Cundall, talks about the launch of a new building standard that recognises the wellbeing of its occupants.
Isn’t it nice to talk about a subject that people are interested in. Over the past decade we have had various sustainability rating tools, all with eye catching acronyms such as SKA, BREEAM and LEED. These are great tools for providing a certification for a building, but what about us humans that occupy buildings? Where is our standard?
Over the past six months I have been giving presentations to construction professionals about health and wellbeing and the first standard of its kind that focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants, ‘WELL’ (WELL Building Standard®).
As government officers and councillors it is in your interest to know a bit more about WELL as it will directly benefit the staff that you employ making for an improved working environment with healthier and happier employees that can work more productively and efficiently. I believe that buildings should be developed to deliver a healthy environment for people and I hope that a health and wellbeing standard such as WELL will become a common requirement for internal environments much like BREEAM has become a common requirement for sustainability in buildings.
It is obvious that a healthier environment has a direct impact on occupant wellbeing and as we spend up to 90% of our time in buildings, the indoor environment can have a significant impact on our health. Research indicates that when in healthier environments productivity increases, absenteeism reduces and concentration improves. A recent study carried out by the British Council for Offices of over 1,000 people resulted in 30% of respondents stating that they felt their office did them harm!
I have studied the requirements of WELL and undertook a test to be part of a group of WELL Accredited Professionals™ (WELL AP™) therefore I feel I can write with some authority on the standard. WELL is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. The key aspects are:
Healthy materials – The choice of materials and finishes are fundamental to achieving a healthy building. From low emission paints and adhesives used in the building.
Air quality – For good indoor air quality you need to test. Then make sure a plan for cleaning benefits air quality.
Water quality – Our water quality in the UK is generally healthy. However if you don’t test, you don’t know what you have! We have tested and found nickel was above the level set by WELL on a recent project.
Biophilic design – Research shows the connectivity of people and nature. WELL requires inclusion of biophilic design. This can include daylight assessments, views to outside, material selection and how plants in buildings effect cognitive performance.
Human Comfort – WELL includes for the fundamental basic building blocks for comfort, temperature, noise, humidity, air movement are designed correctly.
Acoustic soundscapes – Humans can easily be distracted in offices if there are no places to go that are quiet. WELL considers spaces dedicated for collaboration, concentration, creativity and reflection.