wellness

Want a healthy building? Follow this primer on two new wellness standards

This article is republished on Sustainable Benefits for educational purposes.
View the original article here: Perkins+Will’s Ideas + Buildings

By Kate Kerbel

WELL

While our industry’s focus on wellness may seem like just the latest trend, occupant health has been an important goal of the built environment for centuries. In the 1800s, urban infrastructure allowing access to fresh water, natural light, and clean air significantly reduced the number of deaths from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, and yellow fever. Additionally, in the 1900s, doctors consulted on the design of school gymnasiums, advising on how the environment could help support human health.

Today, with individuals spending on average over 40 hours a week at work, health and wellness are taking center stage. Labor and healthcare spending also comprise the bulk of operating expenses—making happy and healthy employees a smart investment.

Since its development in the 1990s, the LEED rating system has been applied to over 19.1 billion total commercial square feet. Along with other systems like BREEAM, Energy Star, and the Living Building Challenge, green building design and operations work to conserve energy across the globe. A serendipitous byproduct of green design has become apparent: people like working in green buildings better. Green buildings ensure access to daylight, incorporate biophilia, provide clean air, and leverage healthy materials; it’s no wonder people like spending time in them.

In recent years, two new wellness rating systems have emerged. Both use research-based strategies to evaluate buildings not by how much energy they save or how they impact the environment, but by how they can directly contribute to occupant health.

WELL was developed by Delos and has a somewhat similar framework and documentation process to its “cousin,” LEED. Both certifications are administered by the Green Business Certification (GBCI), which continues to improve and streamline the synergistic documentation processes.

Fitwel, developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), and administered by the Center for Active Design, aims to identify the most impactful strategies for space and does not require a technical design background to administer.

Perkins+Will is well versed in both systems. We’ve committed to achieving Fitwel certification for all our North American offices, and we have a handful of WELL-certified projects, including the ASID Headquarters—the first space in the world to earn both both LEED and WELL Platinum Certification.

ASID

The ASID Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was WELL Certified at the Platinum level under WELL v1 in June 2017.

As a Fitwel Ambassador and our firm’s first WELL Accredited Professional, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the two systems. In just one year, I have seen a huge increase in interest, especially from developers. In response, here are my answers to two of the most frequently asked questions from those considering these emergent systems.

HOW DOES WELL DIFFER FROM LEED?

Impact Categories

As opposed to LEED’s Location & Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality categories, WELL divvies up its 100 Features (credits) into: Air (Quality), Water (Quality), Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. There are naturally some synergies between the categories: For example, an automated daylight sensor that dims overhead lights when sufficient daylight is present saves energy, but it also reduces glare and allows people to work in a naturally lit space. Conversely, some of the categories prioritize occupant health over energy savings . For example, WELL requires that paper towels be provided in restrooms because automated hand blowers are less sanitary. Through the LEED lens, the additional use of material would be discouraged.

On-Site Testing

LEED requires thorough documentation for the majority of credits, including annotated floor plans, measurements, manufacturer documentation, etc. WELL, on the other hand, requires signed letters of assurance from the architect, contractor, MEP engineer, or owner for many Features. Then, the GBCI sends their own WELL Assessor to the site to visually observe that all the policies are in place, and to conduct rigorous testing to confirm air and water quality standards.

Recertification

Unlike LEED, WELL requires project recertification for construction/major renovation projects as well as interiors projects every three years, which means a WELL Assessor will come back to the site to make observations and rerun quality tests. Projects may either meet the same level of certification they originally earned, be awarded a higher certification than their original level, or lose certification. Core and shell projects, however, do not need to be recertified.

Preconditions

There are more preconditions in WELL (called prerequisites in LEED) than you might expect. For certification or compliance to be awarded, all applicable WELL preconditions need to be met. The number of preconditions that must be met depends on the project typology. For example, new construction/major renovation projects have 41 preconditions, while core and shell projects have 26.

Levels of Certification

Certification starts at silver and consists of Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Meeting all of the preconditions earns a silver certification. Gold level certification is achieved by meeting all WELL preconditions, in addition to between 40 to 80 percent of the optimization features. Platinum level certification is achieved by meeting all preconditions, as well as 80 percent or more of the optimization features.

WHICH STANDARD IS BEST FOR MY BUILDING?

There are several compelling reasons to use each system. For instance, if a client comes to us with a large real estate portfolio and is interested in tracking hundreds of locations, Fitwel would be the best choice. Fitwel is relatively quick and straightforward for facility managers to use themselves to find out if their buildings earn zero, one, two, or three stars. Furthermore, with a large portfolio, facility managers would be able to benchmark all of their locations and set company goals. For example, they may want to bring all of their locations up to two stars over a certain number of years. Fitwel gives the user feedback regarding what changes the building/operations can make that will have the most impact on improving their workplace.

WELL, because of the more substantial effort and cost, realistically would be ideal for a few featured locations of a large portfolio at this point in time. The process of achieving WELL looks similar to that of achieving LEED: It should be discussed early in the project design process and will require members of the architecture, engineering, and operations team to work together to submit documentation.

Lastly, a client could also pursue both Fitwel and WELL for a building, as we are doing with our own Perkins+Will Dallas office, since there are unique benefits to both. Also, keep in mind that certifications are not necessary to ensure the design of a healthy space. Similar to designing green buildings, it is completely possible to design the healthiest of spaces using thoughtful design concepts that great architects have pursued throughout history without completing a formal documentation system.

 

Well Building Certification and How We Plan to Achieve It in Boca Raton

Julie

 

By Julie Lundin, Founder, LEED AP ID+C, NCIDQ, ASID
Director of Sustainable Interior Design for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. Our renovation includes many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC. In addition, we hope to achieve a “wellness” standard certification, WELL or Fitwel. Our project has gone through many design changes throughout the renovation process however sustainability and a healthy built environment continue to be a priorityI have written about the USGBC LEED Certification previously. This article focuses on “well” certifications that are available to those who want to impact and improve the health and well-being of people through the built environment. Design plays a significant role in human health.   Designing for wellness (salutogenic design) is a measurable aspect of design that can help a building’s inhabitants operate at their peak effectiveness, maintaining physical and mental well- being, helping them to lead healthier, and therefore longer lives. It is the ultimate investment in people, in an architectural sense.

The WELL Building Institute has developed a holistic approach to health and well-being in interior places where we live, work and play by using the WELL Building Standard, which aims to transform indoor environments by placing health and wellness at the center of design and construction decisions. The WELL Building Standard focuses on seven major areas: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Design is frequently associated with the concepts of beauty, color, texture and other aesthetic attributes; all of which were taken into consideration during the design of our building. However, as an Interior Designer and LEED AP, it was also important to incorporate one of the most powerful elements of building and space design which is the opportunity to impact and improve the health and well-being of our occupants. Below are some of the strategies that we applied in our project to the Well Building Standard seven concepts of Well building:

AIR

  • We selected low VOC materials and those with no harsh chemicals to reduce off-gassing of VOC’s to limit the likelihood that occupants come into contact with harmful, harsh chemicals
  • Our building has no permanent wall-to-wall carpeting, an open space plan for easy and effective cleaning
  • Incorporating natural and biophilic elements such as plants, a living wall, and natural materials.

WATER

  • Encourage hydration of our occupants by placing a water dispenser with fresh citrus in the design studio area for easy access to all.
  • Installation of a reverse osmosis water filtration system to enhance water quality and taste.
  • Additional energy efficient refrigerator with a filtered water container for cold water that is not bottled.

NOURISHMENT

  • Our space has been designed to provide a full kitchen to occupants so that they may prepare or store healthy meals.
  • Numerous seating areas are available to encourage gathering and sharing meals.
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts will be out on a regular basis for healthy snacks.

LIGHT

  • We have specified BioLight (biolightllc.com) healthy LED light fixtures that provide appropriate lux and equivalent melanopic lux levels to prevent eye strain while also aligning with the body’s circadian rhythm.
  • Reduced glare by positioning light fixtures strategically, provide task lighting, and install an exterior awning to provide shading at the windows.
  • Daylight was considered in the installation of large windows on the south façade of the building to allow for access to natural light and views of the outdoors.

FITNESS

  • Our building is one story with an open space plan which encourages occupants to move frequently and interact with each other.
  • The grounds of the property will contain a water element, butterfly garden, and green outdoor seating areas to encourage time spent in nature.
  • We have installed two showers and bicycle storage to promote active transportation and exercise.

COMFORT

  • Select furniture that enables our occupants to be more active during the work day and offers an alternative to prolonged sitting. We have designed numerous collaboration areas with comfortable sofas and chairs.
  • Our open space plan and newly installed ADA bathroom provides an equitable environment for any occupants with physical disabilities.
  • We have included both collaboration and quiet areas so that occupants can be acoustically comfortable and select their more productive environment depending on their activity.

MIND

  • We have created a beautiful, collaborative space so our occupants and associates will be happy to spend time there
  • Incorporated biophilic design with a living wall, large windows, and natural elements to allow occupants to be connected to nature even while indoors.
  • We have designed the space to have cozy and relaxing areas in addition to the productive work spaces This includes a loft that encourages the opportunity for relaxation and refuge with time spent reading and meditating.

 

The Fitwel Certification System is a unique building certification system that positively impacts occupant health and productivity through an integrated approach to workplace design and operations. Fitwel’s development was led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA). It is an evidence based approach as research by the CDC has shown that health promotion through programs, policies and environmental changes can improve employee health and productivity, with potential savings in healthcare costs. The Fitwel scorecard was developed by experts in public health, facility management and design. Each criterion is linked by scientific evidence to (at least) one of seven health impact categories.

We are confident that our design decisions will enable us to achieve a Well Certification. It is of the utmost importance that our project enhances the quality of life and health of all who spend time there. We encourage this forward way of designing and hope to see many Well Certified buildings in the future.

Referemces:

https://fitwel.org/

https://www.wellcertified.com/

https://www.wellcertified.com/en/articles/design-wellness-strategies-unite-health-design

https://www.littleonline.com/think/the-connection-between-space-and-wellness

http://standard.wellcertified.com/light/circadian-lighting-design