Health and WELL Buildings
As we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, and our environment is the largest determinant of our overall health, we need to focus on designing the places we live, work, learn and relax to ensure they are benefiting our health, well-being and productivity, and creating positive experiences.
What is the WELL Building Standard?
The WELL Building Standard is the world’s leading tool for advancing health and well-being in buildings, communities and organisations, by measuring, monitoring and certifying a series of features that promote occupant health, including factors such as air quality, light levels, acoustic comfort and healthy materials.
The standard takes a holistic approach addressing the aspects of design, policy, and operations that will impact on the physical and mental health and well-being of the building’s inhabitants. Within the standard there are more than 100 Features which are grouped under ten core Concepts addressing a wide range of factors that impact physical and mental health. Each Feature is based on scientific research and industry best practices.
Proposals are reviewed at design stage and a target score is produced. This is then assessed post-completion with on-site inspections and robust testing used to verify outcomes before a final rating is given. Ongoing monitoring ensures that the benefits continue in the medium to long term.
Although there are overlaps with other building rating systems such as LEED and BREEAM, WELL is the only system that focusses primarily on the health and well-being of the building occupants.
What are the benefits in pursuing the WELL Building Standard?
As an owner, occupier or developer, there are a whole range of benefits in securing WELL Certification for your building, including:
- Increased occupant satisfaction and happiness
- Improved productivity
- Attract and retain top talent, clients and investors
- Better staff retention rates and lower employee turnover.
- Lower rates of absenteeism and fewer sick days
- Establish yourself as a progressive, human-centric organisation
- Increased building value and building lease rates
With some 90% of business costs being related to their employees’ salaries and benefits, the benefits of improving employee well-being and reducing costs in the process, through an investment in WELL, are clear.
The Ten WELL Concepts
The Air Concept focusses on the quality of the air inside the finished project by ensuring that internal pollutants are minimised, external pollutants can’t enter and moisture and dust is controlled.
Relevant Project: Faringdon Lodge, Abingdon School. Full natural ventilation through acoustically controlled louvres incorporated into window system and through a high-level lantern which utilises stack-ventilation based on warm air having a natural buoyancy.
Drinking water quality and access to water are features of the Water Concept, along with provision of sanitary accommodation and handwashing facilities.
Relevant Project: King’s Cross Academy and Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children, London. The WC and hand washing facilities in this school project were carefully considered and designed to suit the specific needs of the users.
This Concept covers maximising the access to good food while minimising access to low-quality foods.
Relevant Project: Oak Cafe, Charterhouse School. A wonderful new facility for Charterhouse School which provides an attractive space to eat and promotes health eating choices.
The Light Concept promotes exposure to natural light and aims to create lighting environments that promote visual, mental and biological health through balanced and high-quality natural and artificial lighting and minimisation of glare.
Relevant Project: Indoor Cricket School, Lord’s. This was a ground-breaking building that was the first indoor cricket facility to utilise natural light for the playing area.
The promotion of physical activity in everyday life through environmental design, policies and programs is at the heart of the Movement Concept, ensuring that movement opportunities are integrated into the fabric of our culture, buildings and communities.
Relevant Project: Student Village, Loughborough University. This student accommodation project is built around an ‘Active Landscape’, which is a high-quality environment, encouraging participation in activity and a sense of community to support the well-being of students, staff and visitors
The Thermal Comfort Concept aims to promote human productivity and provide a maximum level of thermal comfort among all building users through improved HVAC system design and control and by meeting individual thermal preferences.
Relevant Project: 119 Ebury Street, London. The first listed building in the UK to achieve BREEAM Outstanding for its proposed design, this highly sustainable retrofit project incorporated efficient engineering systems and low carbon technologies to create a high-quality residential development.
This Concept aims to achieve maximum acoustic comfort within the premises, using sound-absorbing or masking systems between adjacent spaces and optimising reverberation times within spaces based on room functionality.
Relevant Project: Centre for Two St James, Gerrards Cross. Acoustic separation between spaces was key in this community building while cooling for the main auditorium was provided by an entirely silent rock store cooling mechanism.
The main aim of the Materials Concept is to reduce human exposure to chemicals that may impact health during the construction, remodelling, furnishing and operation of buildings.
Relevant Project: The Royal Parks Foundation Education Centre, Hyde Park, London. Natural materials feature prominently inside and out on this project which offers environmental education classes to over 2000 children each year.
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.
Relevant Project: Thames Lodge at St Bernard’s Hospital, London. A key feature of this project was the visual and physical access to nature, with all rooms having a view to the extensive gardens and all wards having their own dedicated garden spaces.
The WELL Community concept aims to support access to essential healthcare, build a culture of health that accommodates diverse population needs and establish an inclusive, engaged occupant community.
Relevant Project: Gold Hill Church and Community Hub, Chalfont St Peter. This new community hub supports both Gold Hill Church and the wider community with a series of fully accessible community spaces of varying sizes and differing character.
How to design healthy buildings
The easiest way to achieve WELL Certification for your project is by implementing thoughtful, socially sustainable design practices.
At DMA we have long prioritised health and well-being in our building designs, along with our commitments to creating environmentally responsible buildings. Our designs naturally align with the fundamental principles of the WELL Building Standard and we incorporate these principles regardless of whether or not WELL Certification is being pursued.
If you are keen to explore this for your project, we would love to get involved and help you accomplish your goals and see a real impact on the success of your project and on the lives of your building occupants.