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Everything You Need to Know About the WELL Building Standard

Posted on Sep 14, 2017, by Michael Eckert

The WELL Building Standard (WELL) combines design and construction best practices with proven, evidence-based strategies for improving health and wellness. According to WELL, this is the "first standard of its kind that focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants".

Today we're looking at some of the key concepts that WELL focuses on, and how they affect health and wellness for building users.

5 Top Priorities in the WELL Building Standard

1) Air

Air quality has a huge impact on health and wellness: polluted air can cause respiratory illnesses, and also trigger allergies and asthma. The WELL Building Standard promotes clean air by minimizing sources of indoor air pollution, and working to improve indoor air quality.

2) Light

Appropriate lighting levels are essential for avoiding eyestrain and headaches: if working conditions are too dim it will strain the eye, but equally if it's too bright there's an increased risk of glare and general visual discomfort. As we spend so much of our time indoors in artificially-lit conditions, this also affects circadian rhythms, and inappropriate lighting levels can cause sleep disorders.

WELL provides illumination guidelines to help organizations ensure their building is appropriately lit, in order to enhance the health and wellbeing of the building's occupants.

3) Fitness

On average, office workers spend 5 hours and 41 minutes sitting at their desk each day - not including time spent seated during their commute, or after work. Extremely sedentary lifestyles bring a whole host of health risks: an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart attacks are just a few of the associated problems.

The WELL Building standard aims to address this growing health crisis by promoting fitness and movement through building design - such as promoting use of stairs over elevators, and adopting furniture that promotes movement, such as sit-stand desks.

4) Comfort

Temperature, noise levels, accessibility and ergonomics all contribute to a comfortable working environment. If employees are uncomfortable at work, it will impact their productivity. Even worse, it's been shown that elevated noise levels lead to increased stress levels.

The WELL Standard for comfort addresses these four crucial aspects, aiming to create an indoor environment that is comfortable for all.

5) Mind

Physical and mental health are closely linked: poor health can often impact mental wellbeing as well. The indoor environment can affect mental wellness, and can be designed to improve mood and stress levels to promote overall health and wellness.

WELL supports mental health and wellbeing by encouraging thoughtful building design, as well as encouraging organizations to adopt policies designed to support employees and minimize stress.

The Difference between WELL and LEED Certifications

In some areas, the criteria required to meet the WELL standard are similar to those required to meet LEED certification standards. This makes sense: both building standards aim to encourage best practices in design and construction, with emphasis on creating healthy buildings.

However, the biggest difference between these two certifications is where they focus: LEED looks at the environmental performance of buildings, and encourages the use of sustainable materials and building practices; whereas WELL focuses on the experience of the people using the building, working to improve health and wellness through building design.

Sustainability has been a design and construction priority for so long now that most companies have made it a key part of their process. With people spending 90% of their time indoors, creating a healthy indoor environment is increasingly important. The WELL Building Standard shifts construction priorities away from sustainability, and onto user health and wellness.

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Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert