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Gary SAUNDERS
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Introduction

The health, wellbeing, productivity and skills of the people occupying the buildings we design is now, quite rightly, being recognised as being of vital importance, as important as sustainability which had previously been the headline grabber in building design.

With sustainability we often talk about the “triple bottom line” although the focus is most often the environment, but with wellness, the social and economic elements come to fore.

Often grouped together under the term Wellbeing, or even Wellness, the benefits of a healthy work environment is twofold: Firstly, that there continues to be clear evidence that this impacts employee productivity, making a clear business case for employers for this to be on their agenda, but also, that progressive generations of employees are unwilling to compromise on such matters of health and happiness, and that it is an expectation of their working environment, which is neglected at the cost of loosing talent, or not being able to recruit them in the first place.

An ever growing number of worldwide companies have not only embraced the question of how content their employees are, but are pushing the envelope of what an office can be, with emphasis placed on activities away from the desk, breakout spaces and more ‘out there’ design as a way of attracting the very best talent.

Biophilic design (biophia meaning love of nature) is another wellness principle that focuses on our innate attraction to nature, and using principles from the natural world to create a human-centered approach to spaces, with benefits such as reduced stress and aiding recuperation.

The building services sector, being the professionals that have arguably the greatest effect on occupant comfort, has always been mindful of the ill effects of a poor environment, ‘sick building syndrome’ was a term coined in the mid 80’s to describe where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or feel unwell for no apparent reason. However, there are many additional benefits in looking further than those environments that are not harmful, to those that can actually have a positive effect on health and wellbeing, actually stimulate productivity and even lead to higher cognitive function of employees.

WELL Certification

Developed by The International WELL Building Institute, the WELL Standard is a performance-based assessment methodology, focused on the way buildings and everything in them run to enhance our health and wellness. It aim is to provide a framework for achieving building wellness. WELL works in conjunction with global green building rating systems like LEED and BREEAM to enhance and add another dynamic to building performance.

The assessment is split into 7 Concepts

Clean air is a critical component to our health. Air pollution is the number one environmental cause of premature mortality, contributing to approximately 7 million, or premature deaths worldwide. The WELL Air concept aims to ensure high levels of indoor air quality through diverse strategies that include source elimination or reduction, active and passive building design and operation strategies and human behavior interventions.
Clean drinking water is a prerequisite for optimal health. The Water concept therefore covers aspects of the quality, distribution and control of liquid water in a building. It includes features that address the availability and contaminant thresholds of drinking water, as well as features targeting the management of water to avoid damage to building materials and environmental conditions.
Nutrition and health are closely related. Poor nutrition is a top contributor to the global burden of noncommunicable diseases and a modifiable risk factor for numerous preventable chronic diseases. The Nourishment concept requires the availability of fruits and vegetables and nutritional transparency and encourages the creation of food environments where the healthiest choice is the easiest choice.
Light is the main driver of the visual and circadian systems, light exposure stimulates the circadian system, which starts in the brain and regulates physiological rhythms throughout the body’s tissues and organs, such as hormone levels and the sleep-wake cycle. The Light concept in WELL promotes exposure to light and aims to create lighting environments that are optimal for visual, mental and biological health.
Physical activity, or rather, inactivity, has emerged as a primary focus of public health due to a rise in premature mortality and chronic diseases attributed to physical inactivity, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, dementia and some forms of cancer. The WELL Fitness concept promotes movement, physical activity and active living and discourages sedentary behaviors through environmental design strategies, programs and policies.
The indoor environment should be a place of comfort. In pursuit of that vision, the Comfort concept focuses on significantly reducing the most common sources of physiological disruption, distraction and irritation and on enhancing acoustic, ergonomic, olfactory and thermal comfort to prevent stress and injury and facilitate comfort, productivity and well-being.
Mental health is not simply the absence of a mental health condition. Rather, it is a state of wellbeing in which individuals are able to live to their fullest potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their community. The Mind concept promotes mental health through policy, program and design strategies that seek to address the diverse factors that influence cognitive and emotional well-being.

"The steps to achieve certification are graduated making it accessible to a wide range of products. Even without formally certifying a building, there is a lot to be gained from introducing the concept of Wellness into your next project."

Scope of Services:

  • WELL Building Assessment
  • BREEAM
  • LEED
  • Pre-Planning Consultancy
  • Thermal Comfort Modelling
  • Daylight Modelling
  • Glare Assessment and Control
  • Lighting Design
  • Overheating Analysis
  • Air Quality Plans
  • Water Quality Assessment
  • System Controls
  • Post Occupancy Assessment
  • Competition Work
  • Masterplanning Assistance
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Policies (Guidance on Wellbeing Aspects)