What does it mean to build WELL?

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

At Jasmax we are a people focused organisation. We care deeply that the built environments we create represent the very best for people in the daily experiences they help facilitate, and it is for this reason we are so excited to help bring the WELL Building Standard to New Zealand. On Wednesday 24 August, we hosted a day workshop and evening event with Dr Whitney Austin Grey and Tony Armstrong from the International Well Building Institute; with our aim to learn more about the science and practicalities of building WELL. For those who missed it, here’s an overview of the key themes.

The WELL Building standard is focused on people. It is the world’s first design standard to look holistically on occupant health, happiness and wellbeing. WELL is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. I was first exposed to the Standard when Jasmax sponsored me to attend training at a WELL workshop in Philadelphia as part of this year’s AIA convention, right away I was hooked and at this point I have registered to qualify as a WELL accredited professional(AP), the first in New Zealand.

Our built environment can shape our habits and choices, regulate our sleep-wake cycle, drive us toward healthy and unhealthy choices, and passively influence our health through the quality of our surroundings. While we can point to many great examples of buildings and interiors designed with the very best intentions, high sustainability credentials, and healthy features, it is very difficult to really prove and test just how well a building is performing for the wellbeing of its occupants.Whitney and Tony’s presentation explained how the WELL Building Standard rises to this challenge.

The evidence-based standard looks at seven key design criteria measured across 100 different features to optimise our built environment to allow people to thrive. Looking specifically at Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness,Comfort and Mind, WELL is grounded in a body of medical research that explores the connection between buildings, where we spend up to 90 percent of our time, and the health and wellness impacts on us as occupants.

This Standard, its science and reasoning, is grounded in the study of Public Health. The research and inferred requirements of the Standard wholly consider the end user. This in turn can have a great commercial impact on business operations. More and more employees, and particularly new entrants to the workforce, regard quality environments and wellbeing benefits on par with salary when making career decisions, and providing a workplace that accommodates this will inevitably attract and retain the best people. Existing WELL certified spaces have evidenced a greater perceived productivity,workplace presentism, and reduced stress. While the early adopters of the Standard have appeared in workplace and office environments (See CBRE Headquarters), pilot programs are now in place for WELL certified retail, multifamily residential,and education environments. So whether resident, student, employee, or employer the benefits are available to all.

Whitney and Tony’s presentation showed some powerful research findings which supports the great impact of environmental conditions on productivity. For example, in achieving occupant comfort they demonstrated a 10% variability in productivity by simply maintaining the optimal temperatures in a workplace, and a 66% drop in performance when exposed to distracting noise. They explained how over 90% of building costs over a 30 year cycle are attributed to personnel,over both construction and operation. If through good design we are able to influence this 90% cost, the ROI for WELL buildings can have huge implications from the smallest of interventions.

In New Zealand, we already have a strong connection to the natural world around us, we care deeply about the health of our people, and there is an existing consciousness for creating high quality environments for our people. At Jasmax we view learning more about the WELL Building standard, and raising its profile in New Zealand, will help our community to go the extra mile in optimising the social and emotional aspects of spatial design, in addition to the physical.

We’d like to thank Whitney and Tony for coming over to New Zealand, and look forward to making progress in the design and delivery of WELL environments.

If you’re interested to know more about WELL, or would like to join the conversation, please contact Sarah Rothwell at marketing@jasmax.com

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