According to statistics, people spend 90% of their time inside. Despite alternative office designs meant to replace cubicles and open office plans, employees are still more dissatisfied with their work environment than those in closed offices.
And that dissatisfaction is merely because of a lack of status. Research shows that issues like poor air quality, lighting, access to outdoor spaces, building interiors, and water purity can affect employees’ health and productivity.
Although not all companies realize the impact of these factors on their business, many do. In fact, a surprising 33% of clients demand green buildings, and 38% of office space in the largest U.S. markets are LEED and/or Energy certified.
The problem is, that despite the move to sustainable construction, LEED certification, one of the most common methods of assessing the eco-friendliness of a property, doesn’t address enough of these health and environmental concerns.
As a result, some experts are moving towards a new type of building standard: WELL.
WELL Building Standards Are the Next Step In Sustainability
The WELL Building Standards are an evidence-based, peer-reviewed system developed by the International Well Building System. With over $30 million spent on research and 450 projects, the WELL system examines seven aspects of what is considered important to the health and well-being of those who work in office buildings: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind.
Indoor air can be affected by outdoor air pollution, as well as off-gassing from building materials, water leaks, and indoor combustion sources. Poor ventilation and airborne germs that accumulate on surfaces can also affect employees’ health. Poor air quality is one of the main causes of sick building syndrome, which is estimated to affect up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings.
Despite increased regulations from the EPA, clean drinking water is still a problem, and not just in third world countries.
WELL water standards focus on minimizing the effect of public water additives, agricultural contaminants, and both inorganic and organic contaminants. The standards accomplish this through ensuring proper filtration techniques are used, and that regular testing occurs.
The U.S. is in the middle of an obesity epidemic. In the workplace, busy days and increased work hours have only made things worse.
By increasing the amount of healthy food available and limited the amount of sugar-laden, processed foods, the WELL standard for nourishment hopes to encourage better eating habits among employees and their families.
Most people spend their days indoors, away from natural sources of light. However, the spectrum of light found in natural light has a significant effect on numerous processes in our bodies, such as alertness, digestion, and sleep.
Bad lighting design or insufficient illumination can influence employees’ circadian rhythms, decreasing alertness and weakening cognitive function, both of which have an effect on the quality and quantity of work done by employees.
The WELL light standards were created to support good sleep quality and increase visual acuity, both of which can increase worker productivity.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and engages in muscle building exercise at least two days per week.
Despite the well-known effects of a sedentary lifestyle, less than 5% of adults get the minimum amount of exercise necessary to stay fit.
WELL standards suggest activity incentive programs, structured fitness opportunities, physical activity spaces, and exterior activity design in order to encourage employee fitness.
Comfort in the workplace is an essential part of ensuring distraction-free environments that support productivity. Several factors affect comfort level, among them temperature regulation, noise levels, and ergonomic furniture that minimizes stress on the body.
Comfort standards are designed to improve indoor spaces by creating comfortable distraction-free spaces that promote productivity in the workplace.
Physical changes to the environment aren’t the only thing that affects employee productivity. Emotional stressors play a major role in employees’ overall health and well-being.
Whether an employee suffers from depression or is simply stressed out due to family or work factors, the entire company benefits when ensuring maximal mental health becomes a priority. That’s why the Mind WELL standards address the issue by identifying workplace policies that can help improve employees’ wellbeing.
What Is The Difference Between WELL And LEED?
While LEED addresses the systems put into place in a commercial space, WELL looks at the wellbeing of the people in the building.
Some parts of LEED are definitely beneficial to tenants’ health, but WELL’s standards are designed to have a greater impact on tenants’ physical and mental wellbeing. Features such as better air quality and improved lighting have a measurable impact on tenants, making it easier to see the benefit of investing in WELL certification.
LEED provides some elements that benefit health, but WELL has a much more direct impact on tenants, with better lighting and air quality and a host of other tangible features.
In addition, WELL certified buildings make good economic sense.
Investors who choose WELL certification are able to command higher rents. Properties are easier to market, lease, and ultimately, sell, while the cost of implementing standards is, according to developers, “a minimal percentage of the overall development budget.”
How Much Does It Cost To Implement WELL Standards?
WELL standards are particularly cost-effective in the construction of new buildings, as the cost to design wellness features can be rolled into the general design of the building. Some developers are adding features like heat sensors that adjust room temperature depending on how many people are in a room; dynamic glass that provides natural light yet turns dark when the sun is high, and many more high-tech additions.
But the numbers prove the cost is worth it:
- Productivity gains of up to 11% with better air quality
- Drops of 4%-6% and 66% due to temperature control and noise reduction
… and these are just a few examples of how these changes can affect the workplace. But most importantly, these numbers can be qualitatively turned into increased ROI, as statistics show that
- an increase in productivity of just 0.5% adds up to a nearly 300% ROI for a large company
- 7% increase in rent
- 6% of tenant retention
- 8-10% increase in value
All this proves that WELL certification pays off both financially and in terms of the well-being of employees, which is a win-win for both sides.