In 2013, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched a movement to address issues regarding health and well-being within the built environment (issues which are somewhat overlooked by existing standards). From this the WELL Building Standard was established, with the aim to provide architects and designers with guidelines on how to make a real and measurable difference to how we function within our urban spaces. And even if your project doesn’t aim for certification the WELL standard offers an inspirational model when considering a human centred design approach.
WELL notes 7 concepts that must be considered and fulfilled in the scope of a design: Air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.
Depending on how many of the criteria within these concepts a project fulfils, there are 3 certification levels up for grabs: Silver, Gold and Platinum.
The need for positive spaces
With over half the world’s population now living in cities, chronic illnesses are becoming increasingly prevalent. Globally, 76% of employees report a struggle with wellbeing, and work-related stress costs the US approximately €255 billion and Europe €550 billion annually. These issues indicate a clear need for healthier spaces.
How will becoming WELL Certified set a business or practice apart from others?
Designing with people in mind is a growing topic that can no longer be overlooked, and WELL is quickly becoming an industry standard. Gaining WELL certification can be a talent magnet, attracting the best candidates to an organisation; the Human Spaces Report found that a third of global respondents stated office design affects their decision of where to work.
Research has also found that:
- Better indoor air quality can lead to an 8-11% improvement in productivity.
- Better nutrition leads to a 27% reduction in depression, a 13% reduction in distress, and overall better mental health (Mcmartin, Jacka, & Colman. (2013), productivity and job performance (Journal of occupational and environmental medicine).
- Being closer to windows makes us more productive, especially if there is a view onto nature.
- Thermal comfort has a significant impact on staff satisfaction, and even more so if staff are given control over this
- Adding plants into the workplace significantly reduces stress, health concerns, and sickness absence (Smith, A., Tucker, M., & Pitt, M. (2011).
So what does the WELL standard look like in practice?
CBRE Madrid were, in 2016, the first project in Spain to be awarded WELL certification. They’ve addressed several of WELL’s 7 concepts in varying levels of complexity – earning them Gold accreditation.
In addressing ‘Air’, ‘Comfort’, ‘Light’ and ‘Mind’ a biophilic scheme with a theme of ‘forest cabin’ was introduced to the office. This scheme focussed on providing dynamic and diverse spaces for different user needs (both group and individual). The scheme incorporates high levels of planting and a range of lighting options to address the need for task lighting as well as comfortable, ambient electric and natural light. The company now also provides a wide range of healthy food for its staff, all with the nutritional information available. This works alongside fitness classes such as Pilates, Yoga and a running club, to enhance staff wellbeing – addressing concepts ‘Nourishment’ and ‘Fitness’.
CBRE found that a return on their investment was seen within a year. They found that 80% of employees now feel more productive with 90% saying that they feel a WELL scheme has had a positive impact on them.
What if WELL is not as relevant in my market?
There are a variety of different building standards, and some may be more applicable to your market than the WELL Building Standard. Even if you don’t decide to register for certification, WELL’s 7 concepts are still worth discussing and implementing. Exploring human-centred design by using WELL as a framework is just one way to drive the thinking and designing for wellbeing forward.
Want to know more?
Oliver Heath Design recently worked with Interface authoring a practitioner’s guide to ‘Creating Positive Spaces using the WELL Building Standard’. The guide provides information on what WELL is, why it is relevant, and how to go about achieving certification. You can read about the CBRE case study and the benefits they have found in more detail, along with other compelling international case studies demonstrating the real value of this approach. You can download the guide here.