More building owners are asking about WELL certification and want to know what it means to them if they are considering LEED certification. LEED certification of your building means it’s highly energy efficient, but caring for the living beings within the building is the next step. Good health and wellness are part of the goals of living green, and buildings that focus on the health and wellness of the people within them are the next essential step. That is why WELL certification may be the new green building standard.
Many Americans spend up to 90 percent of their days indoors. Spa and hotel owners were some of the earliest proponents of building health. Columbia University and Delos, a real estate firm, reviewed more than four thousand research studies concerning building technologies several years ago. A team of designers, medical professionals, and policymakers were assembled to create the WELL Building Standard®. Green Building Education Services (GBES), along with Sustainable Investment Group (SIG), can help you qualify for the WELL AP Credential Exam.
To qualify for WELL Certification, the building must support individuals’ well-being and biological wellness within by providing comfort and physical/emotional nourishment such as pure air and water, fitness opportunities, and proper lighting to decrease inhabitants’ stress.
In order to meet the WELL standard, items like air quality–including the levels of certain air particles or allergens–are considered. As a result, many WELL buildings offer standard health options such as air filters or UV light sanitizers to remove circulating toxins and bacteria from the environment:
● Recent studies like “The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognition” (NIH, 2015) show that a healthier building adds to its inhabitants’ abilities to think clearly and well. Productivity in the workplace is affected by an unhealthy environment. Spending money to achieve WELL Certification may even add to the business’ bottom line.
● Harvard University’s Department of Public Health built on the findings of the above-referenced cognition study. The findings, published in the International Journal Environmental Research and Public Health (2015), show supports the importance of building ventilation and proper function of HVAC systems on the cognitive function, health and wellness of people within them. In addition to promoting better human health, owners of properly ventilated and air conditioned/heated WELL buildings enjoyed reduced energy costs.
Most Americans have heard about Sick Building Syndrome for years, but most building owners do nothing–or don’t know what to do–about their sick building. The number of circulating chemical toxins, including formaldehyde, flame-retardants, and VOCs, are known to affect human health. The total impact of breathing in particles, fumes, and toxins over time is an important and growing area of medical research.
Defeating Sick Building Syndrome
Working in some buildings tends to negatively affect the health of people who spend time there. Symptoms like sore throat, wheezing, tight chest, irritated nasal or sinus passages or mucous membrane issues are frequent in the building population. Researchers say these symptoms result from Sick Building Syndrome, or SBS.
NIH studies say that working in a sick building can increase absenteeism, decrease workers’ ability to make good decisions or decrease productivity as a whole. In a commercial, medical care, or educational setting, these factors can cause the building owner or business to absorb huge costs:
● According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some companies spend up to 90 percent of operating costs of staff compensation.
● “Poor morale” might result from sick building syndrome. The impact of the sick building on inhabitant health can directly affect profit margins.
Evaluating the building according to WELL standards includes addressing internal temperature controls, CO2 levels, ventilation, air velocity, odors, dust, humidity, and more:
Researchers in Finland report that higher building temperatures (about 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) can promote SBS symptoms.
Air temperature and radiant temperatures should be considered. Radiant heat from hot surfaces, electrical equipment, ovens, etc., can increase the building’s temperature and should be considered when evaluating building health and safety.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Higher CO2 levels (800-1000 ppm) cause people to perceive them as stuffy, but higher levels (above 1000 ppm) can increase SBS symptoms. Researchers around the world report that inhabitants feel better when CO2 levels are reduced (600 ppm or less).
According to UC Berkeley research, better ventilation rates (per person) can reduce the frequency of Sick Building Syndrome symptoms. Improved ventilation reduces CO2 concentrations and, although a direct link between CO2 levels and SBS ailments has not been proven, CO2 levels combined with other indoor environment pollutants are thought to promote SBS symptoms.
Various researchers believe that adequate ventilation, clean HVAC filters, proper HVAC function, and air flow direction adjustments can help reduce SBS.
Air ve when air velocity is an important thermal comfort consideration. Adjusting the speed of air movement on the skin of building inhabitants can make them feel cool on a warm day, but uncomfortable drafts may also result when air leaks occur.
Build or furnishings in the building can be detrimental to inhabitants of the building. In contrast, natural scents can help them feel energetic or relaxed.
Improving air filtration and providing regular HVAC cleaning can reduce dust levels. A higher level of dust in the air can promote dust allergies over time.
Relative humidity in the building, a measure of the ratio between water vapor in the air and the maximum amount it can hold at a stable temperature should be evaluated. People feel less well in a high humidity environment. Higher humidity in the air (above 70 percent) can contribute to SBS symptoms and facilitate growth of mold or other health-averse organisms in the environment.
The Importance of Air Quality and Wellness
Air quality dramatically affects individuals in the workplace. If Sick Building Syndrome exists, evaluating and improving air quality by improving temperature and ventilation is one of the easiest ways to improve workers’ health.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University report that mixed-mode conditioning or natural ventilation systems may equate to an approximate one percent savings in health costs (0.8 to 1.3 percent improvements), almost 10 percent productivity increases (3 to 18 percent gains), and more than 50 percent HVAC energy savings (47 to 79 percent HVAC efficiency – savings).
Adding Biophilic design (natural plants and green walls) to the environmental can help. NASA research says that some plants that require low lighting along with carbon plant filters improve the quality of indoor air by removing trace pollutants and organic chemicals from the air. In addition, newer toxin-attracting sheet wall liners can be used to purify the air.
The results of poor air quality are crystal clear. Many building owners and businesses know that something must be done to improve air quality but few know what to do about it. Sustainable Investment Group (SIG) assists clients across the nation in achieving clean air and reduced energy costs.
High Growth Wellness Services
Designing or redesigning the internal environment to meet certain principles of wellness contribute to the USD 2 trillion per year high growth industry of wellness or related services. Corporations were slow to embrace the wellness trend but, as more corporate leaders acknowledge WELLness is here to stay, corporate offices are more likely to include fitness facilities or filtered air as part of the healthy internal environment.
Towards a Transparent Building Industry
WELL standards are another way to increase transparency in the construction industry. Standardized environmental product declaration(s) and reporting measures are likely to benefit everyone involved. The decision to avoid harmful chemicals and ingredients should concern, architects, designers, owners, and inhabitants of each building or residence.
This decision is essential to the creation of healthy, environmentally sustainable ecosystems. Focus on how well the environment protects human health is a key factor in deciding where we work, live, or learn:
● Spending money to create a healthy workplace is financially and ethically sensible. It’s good business sense to offer health-sustaining and/or health-promoting space to workers, clients, partners, visitors, students, and everyone.
● Providing a healthy inner environment also benefits society as a whole. Soaring costs of health care may be reduced when individuals have access to clean air, water, and fitness opportunities.
How to Invest in Energy Savings
Americans are currently enjoying lower energy costs and, according to the U.S. government, the cost of petroleum may remain at historically low levels throughout 2016 or longer. The decision to deploy energy savings in a redesign can improve a building’s superficial curb appeal but, over the long-run, redesigning the building’s internal WELLness design may have an even greater impact on productivity.
Learn more about why WELL Certification is an important next step for your healthy building. Contact Michael Cichetti at SIG to learn more about LEED and WELL Certification Standards at 404-343-3835.
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