A Healthy Building Movement

Cassie Raymond, NCIDQ, WELL AP

Health is more than just the absence of disease.  The World Health Organization defines health as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.”  You may have heard that eating nutritious food and exercising will lead to a healthier body and mind. This has proven to be true through the last 100 plus years of research on the subject. This research has fueled a billion dollar health movement of yoga, essential oils, and gyms on every street corner to meet the demand of the last two decades.

Similarly, sustainable design and the built environment have been a highly researched topic and has spawned a global movement of designing buildings that use materials and resources in a responsible way. Designing buildings and spaces that reduce their burden on the earth is a moral imperative. Now that these building technologies are on their way to being standard practice in our approach to design, we have an obligation to look inward at the way our built environment affects human health.

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University of Rochester | Fitness Center for Employees and Students

The Movement 

 

Movements are largely initiated by years of research or major events. In our case, we have both.  The recent pandemic has affected everything in our lives from how we balance work and home to the choices we make daily, “Should we go to that birthday party?” Public awareness has never been higher when it comes to healthy environments. MERV 13 filters for example are now a part of the public lexicon and people are demanding healthier spaces to live, work, heal, learn, and worship. As collective awareness increases so will the demand. Welcome to the healthy building movement.

Meeting the Moment

 

As designers and building owners consider new projects and prioritize their complexities, it is essential that human wellness is top of the list. What can we do to support this initiative?

The WELL building standard is a program that establishes evidence-based standards from water quality to ways to promote mental health through design. These standards are measured through an ongoing third-party performance verification process ensuring the goals established are maintained throughout the life of the building. These performance standards are becoming easier to attain through building technology innovation and innovative thinking. These standards are the first of their kind to think about the whole person. As designers, it is our role to educate, encourage and support building owners through the process.

The Business of Wellness

 

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Much of the WELL building standard lies in organizational policy which is different than other similar building standards. These initiatives are most successful coming from the top of the organization and is a holistic approach to building design.  100+ of the fortune 500 companies are using the WELL building standard as their roadmap to protect their most valuable asset, their people. Organizations are seeing the business benefit in the reduction of absenteeism, increased retention and reduced medical costs. Designing to the WELL standard isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a compelling business case. Higher education institutions are seeing that in certifying their buildings they are instilling confidence in students returning to campuses. Healthcare facilities are utilizing the standard to create environments that focus on healing and to support care teams, reducing burn out. At the dawn of the healthy building movement, early adopters are enjoying the competitive edge buildings like these provide.

Looking Forward

 

With 90% of our time spent indoors, healthy buildings are being viewed as a human right and essential to our quality of life. More and more people are becoming aware of how their environment affects their health. They are demanding spaces that provide them with higher quality air, water, and cleaning practices as well as healthy food options, spaces for rejuvenation and access to nature.  The future of building design and construction will be forever united with human wellness. It is our responsibility to prioritize wellness and focus on enhancing the human experience through architecture and Interior Design.

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Cassie is a NCIDQ accredited Interior Designer and project manager at Dwyer Architectural. For the last 15 years she has studied market trends in architecture and interior design. Cassie is a certified WELL AP and is passionate about how human wellness and the built environment intersect.