What is WELL?

Now that the holidays are over, and the ball has dropped signaling the end of one year and the beginning of the next – we all know what time it is: time to make our resolutions for the days ahead. Without doubt, the most frequently made resolutions are those that revolve around health & wellbeing – whether it’s to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, get more sleep, and so on.

But did you know that the space you live in, and the space you work in, can either help, or hinder you from achieving those goals? It’s true, considering we spend 90% of our lives indoors, and 40% of that is spent at our place of business. So while making resolutions to live our best, healthiest lives possible – shouldn’t part of that include taking steps to ensure our environments are supportive of our complete health, too?

Here at SPARK Design, we think so too, which is why we’ve taken steps towards even more holistic design by having a member of our team become a WELL Accredited Professional. After all, the 46% of people who keep their resolutions annually will tell you that the best way to achieve a goal is to enlist help & accountability. So just as you might hire a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals, a WELL AP can help you to realize your healthy environment objectives.

With that said – what is WELL, what’s a WELL AP do, and why is it important to you and your company?

WELL, in its simplest terms, is the leading tool for advancing health and well-being in buildings globally. That’s because the team at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) have taken the time to do the research and understand how spaces can make everyone, everywhere, healthier, happier, and more productive. Because of this, WELL is essentially leading a global movement with the goal of transforming health & wellbeing with a “people first” approach to buildings, organizations, and communities.

They’re able to do this by using the WELL Building Standard, or WELL for short, which is a roadmap for creating and certifying spaces that advance human health and well-being. Taking over 10 years to develop using the latest scientific research, WELL sets pathways for accomplishing health-first factors across 10 different core concepts that help every single person be their best, healthiest, selves by supporting physical and mental health. With rigorous standards in place for building systems, operational protocols, and company-wide practices, WELL takes a complete, holistic approach to the design & management of our spaces and can be scaled from a single interior space to an entire organization.

WELL has been founded on the following principles, per the WELL website:

  • Equitable: Benefits all types of people, especially those who need it the most
  • Global: Provides solutions that are applicable in countries around the world
  • Evidence-Based: Incorporates the latest science and public health research
  • Technically Robust: Confirms achievement through rigorous third-party review
  • Customer Focused: Prioritizes customer success through personalized technical support
  • Resilient: Evolves over time to incorporate new findings

All of this research and evidence have led to the creation of the 10 core concepts that make up the WELL v.2 Building Standard – and within those concepts are the related features. As a performance-based system, each project is only accountable to the features within each concept that apply. The concepts are as follows:

  • Air: This concept aims to ensure high levels of indoor air quality across a building’s lifetime through diverse strategies that include source elimination or reduction, active and passive building design and operation strategies and human behavior interventions.
  • Water: This concept 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.
  • Nourishment: This 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: This concept promotes exposure to light and aims to create lighting environments that are optimal for visual, mental and biological health.
  • Movement: This concept promotes movement, physical activity and active living while discouraging sedentary sedentary behaviors through environmental design strategies, programs and policies.
  • Thermal Comfort: This concept aims to promote human productivity and ensure a maximum level of thermal comfort among all building users through improved HVAC system design and control and by meeting individual thermal preferences.
  • Sound: This concept aims to bolster occupant health and well-being through the identification and mitigation of acoustical comfort parameters that shape occupant experiences in the built environment.
  • Materials: This concept aims to reduce human exposure to hazardous building material ingredients through the restriction or elimination of compounds or products known to be toxic and the promotion of safer replacements. Compounds known to be hazardous to the health of occupational workers and/or known to bioaccumulate or aggregate in the environment are also restricted and, in some instances, not permitted.
  • Mind: This concept promotes mental health through policy, program and design strategies that seek to address the diverse factors that influence cognitive and emotional well-being.
  • Community: This concept aims to support access to essential healthcare, workplace health promotion and accommodations for new parents while establishing an inclusive, integrated community through social equity, civic engagement, and accessible design.

If this seems like a lot to take in – you’re not alone. That’s why there are WELL AP’s to help you through the process of having your space become WELL Certified. The WELL AP credential denotes experience and understanding of the WELL Building Standard, and a commitment to advancing human health around the world. It requires the passing of a rigorous exam, and continuing education to maintain it. With all of that knowledge and work – WELL AP’s are perfectly positioned to help your company pursue WELL-ness within the built environment. And with all the benefits that WELL brings, there is good reason to pursue it.

Now, more than ever before, it has become apparent that investing in health and well-being is one of the best methods to achieve a healthy organizational performance. Research shows over and over that when organizations support their most valuable assets – their people – they often experience lower turnover and burnout, while simultaneously seeing an increase in productivity and engagement. All of these factors, as we well know, impact that all-important bottom line.

With the increasing popularity and demand by today’s workforce for Environmental, Social and Governance investing, a strategy that requires both financial returns as well as a positive social and environmental impact, the importance of health & wellbeing within the workplace can no longer be ignored for those companies who seek to remain relevant. For more information on WELL, and how it can benefit your company, please visit the website at https://www.wellcertified.com/, or reach out to your friendly SPARK designer, and we’re happy to discuss in further detail with you!Wishing you a happy and healthy 2022 – SPARK Design

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