Human Spaces

Aiming for well-being with WELL

A new norm has come to town. Will it have a place in your future projects?

By now you have likely heard about WELL, a certification program for buildings which focuses on users’ health and well-being. Launched in 2014 by New York’s international WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and presented in Montréal last August, its objective is to encourage the creation of human focused living spaces.

First reflex: Compare it to the LEED environmental norm. In fact, WELL sort of completes LEED as it also targets environmental aspects. But its approach is totally centred on human beings: therefore where LEED aims to properly manage water use to avoid waste, WELL focuses on monitoring quality to contribute to its occupants’ health.

In a press conference, the President of the IWBI, Kamyar Vaghar, explained that WELL focuses on seven sectors: air, water, food, light, physical fitness, comfort and spirit. “In a context where we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, he said, research shows that it is in these spaces that we must focus to improve our quality of life.” M. Vaghar confirmed that the norm is verified through testing instead of solely through reports and that a number of characteristics need to be respected for each of the domains: some are fundamental, whereas others, considered “optimizations” are complementary and allow for better marks when it comes to certification.

More human spaces

Companies today know that the “human resources” components of their activities are more important than ever. According to the IWBI, personnel costs over 30 years represent 92% of the building’s cost. In this context, what could be more natural than providing them with the best possible care?

That’s what Interface, a flooring manufacturer, in a parallel process, sought to highlight by publishing the Human Spaces report. The company studies the impacts of biophilic design (see box) on employees’ well-being and productivity. After surveying 7 600 office employees in 16 countries, the report, led by well-known experts Cary Cooper and Bill Browning, showed that the presence of natural elements in a design does in fact have a marked effect on occupants.

The study noted an increase in creativity and a feeling of well-being among people who work in an environment furnished with natural elements such as plants or natural light. This also translates into better productivity, fewer sick days and less absenteeism in general. The advantages that natural elements bring are noteworthy and above all… measurable! This reality can only influence designers’ work and WELL can help them to do just that.