The Healthy Building Movement

Gone are the days of office spaces that exist in a labyrinth of dreary, humdrum cubicles void of personality and life. The deeper we get into the 21st century, the more people seek healthier work environments. They are tired of breathing in mold and shivering uncomfortably under flickering fluorescent lights, and quite frankly, they cannot be blamed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the average American spends over 90% of their life indoors,1 so why would anyone want to spend that much of their time in an unhealthy environment that induces stress

The U.S. Green Building Council® (USGBC®) became a pioneer in building sustainability when it established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental DesignTM (LEED®) certification in 1993. This certification became a monumental step toward regulating health and wellness in the workplace, though it started out with the sole intention of promoting sustainability and energy efficiency. Productivity came as a byproduct once employee absenteeism due to physical illness as well as depression and stress-related conditions began to decline rapidly. A study published in 2010 found that companies that moved to a LEED-certified building from one without the certification saw more than 50% reduction in employee absenteeism due to physical illness, depression, and stress-related conditions.2

Paving the Way for the Rise of an Industry

The building sustainability movement led by the USGBC created a newfound appreciation for the relationship between productivity and the surrounding environment. As this movement spread, it gave birth to a new industry with competing certification systems that cover varying fields of health and wellness.

Delos, a global leader in health and wellness, established the International Well Building InstituteTM (IWBITM) in 2013. The IWBI launched the WELL Building Standard® to piggyback off LEED and steer the healthy building movement even more in the direction of human-centric environments. Inspired by the impact LEED had on human health, the WELL Building Standard took the initiative of creating an opportunity for building owners to advertise the steps they take in their buildings to improve occupant health, productivity, and overall quality of life.

Leed
The WELL Building Standard's Mission and Values
© 2018, Delos3

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched Fitwel® in early 2017.4 This is another building certification focused on improving occupant health and well-being. It takes a more flexible, unique portfolio-based approach than the WELL Building Standard, allowing companies to certify all their real estate assets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This relieves building owners of the major pitfalls associated with the WELL Building Standard: time and price. 

A Prosperous Future

Quality ideas become trends, and quality trends continue to evolve until the needs of everyone interested are met. As a more established certification, LEED continues to be a familiar concept to most. WELL and Fitwel are still trying to gain traction, but they have certainly allowed for more healthy building conversions as they provide alternative options to fit the needs of diverse business types.  As this industry continues to advance, the overall health and productivity of the population will inevitably thrive with it.

Resources

  1. https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality#note1

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920980/

  3. https://delos.com/

  4. https://centerforactivedesign.org/fitwel

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