WELL Certification and Its Impact on Healthy Buildings

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WELL Certification has always been of utmost importance within the commercial real estate industry because of its ability to address environmental concerns and focus on human health and experience within the building itself. With return-to-work plans rolling out, employees are demanding buildings prioritize protecting their health. In fact, 85% of employees stated they would think about the health of their building and air quality in their office building after the pandemic.

WELL Certification can help with this by focusing on creating healthy, sustainable, and comfortable spaces for everyone in a building. Let’s dive deeper into WELL Certification and its ability to make buildings healthy.

What is WELL Certification?

WELL Certification – created through years of research and development by the WELL Building Institute – is a performance-based certification system developed with health and wellness at the center of design, The certification addresses a combination of design and construction best practices and building performance that influences the health and wellness of building occupants. WELL Certification is broken down into evidence-based categories that improve occupant health, including air, water, sound, and comfort. To receive this certification, a project must fulfill all WELL category standards.

I was introduced to the WELL Certification program by my current employer, Cohesion, a smart building platform company. Due to my background in building system automation controls and my company’s focus on healthy buildings, I was encouraged to get WELL certified by our Chief Technology Officer, Nik Patel.

As I was preparing for the WELL AP Certification, I was delighted to see how WELL guidelines focused on building occupant’s health and wellness. Some of the criteria seems trivial, but is essential for people’s wellbeing. This includes providing standing or adjustable height desks for employees, having sufficient eating spaces, monitoring air quality, incorporating views to the outdoors to receive sunlight, and a lot more.

Why Healthy Buildings are Important

Indoor air quality, lighting, water (or lack thereof), and building interiors can be responsible for many health problems such as respiratory disease, difficulties

with concentration and sleep, dehydration, obesity, and pain. It’s important to realize that certain factors in your building affect your health, and what affects health affects productivity.

If health issues and related productivity issues are a problem, then the WELL Building Standard might be the solution. WELL Building Standards embraces the creative thinking needed to address the complex ways interior spaces contribute to health and wellness.

Not only are there problems with the typical office building, but a larger problem is that we don’t know the scale of how healthy or unhealthy the typical office building is today. All we know is that these problems exist.

Programs like WELL help employers leverage a healthy work environment to recruit and retain the best talent, reduce absenteeism, and improve their workers’ happiness, satisfaction, and productivity.

Optimized Indoor Air Quality Leads to Healthy Buildings

People spend the overwhelming majority of their time indoors, so the characteristics and quality of the indoor environment hold a lot of power to support or detract from human health. An excellent example of this is indoor air quality, which is only one component of the indoor environment but has been studied extensively.

Harvard Business Review states that workers are 5%-6% more productive when air pollution levels are rated as good by the Environmental Protection Agency versus when they are ranked as unhealthy. But many other factors in our built environment— such as access to daylight, opportunities for mental relief and physical movement, and availability of healthy food options — all contribute to human health. Together, these factors significantly impact our physical, mental, and emotional health, not to mention our productivity.

WELL Certification incentivizes building operators to measure and monitor the indoor air quality, which is the first step towards becoming a healthy building. By effectively monitoring indoor air quality, employers can ensure workers can enjoy healthier spaces with cleaner air, be free from potentially harmful chemicals and pollutants, and work in the healthy building they desire.

WELL Certification is the New Normal

The concept of making our built environment safer and more comfortable for occupants has been around for decades.

However, this year, the importance and focus on making the indoor environment healthier is imperative as we all became more aware of the necessity of optimized air quality and sanitized workspaces. The demand for healthy buildings is expected to grow within the next three years, and about 89.5% of real estate owners intend to enhance their health and wellness strategies in the coming year.

This leads us to believe that WELL Certification and the WELL Building Standards will become widely implemented in new buildings as we move past the pandemic. Scientists and health professionals warn that this surely won’t be the last pandemic we will see. As viruses and bacteria mutate and adapt, we will continuously need to seek better ways to protect our health and prevent the spread of infectious diseases, virtually ensuring WELL-certified buildings become the new normal.

Here at Cohesion, we strive to create smarter, greener, and healthy buildings. With WELL-certified experts, we are set to make your building healthier. To learn more about how we create healthy buildings, request a demo with our team. Anu Goyal is Cohesion’s Solutions Engineering Director. She is a subject matter expert in HVAC controls with strong analytical, technical, and management skills and a passion for continuous improvement in business processes.

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