It’s time to embrace the better lifestyle that energy-efficient WELL buildings provide!

At one point in history, people thought leeches were the answer to illness. There was a time when nobody batted an eye over a pregnant woman dangling a cigarette from her lips. Mercury was applied to cuts and scrapes. Happily, we learned better health practices through the years, didn’t we? That’s because Mother Necessity eventually transforms, “How bad could this be?” into “Uh-oh, we need to fix this situation pronto!” Fast forward to this moment in history where some folks debate the necessity of green building construction and retrofits, yet more of us are wondering what indoor living in tight envelopes is doing to our health.

Decades from now, historians will reflect on our tight buildings with their off-gassing furniture and trapped VOCs and question the sanity of people living and working in such environments today. Thanks to green building innovations, new standards, and certifications, the tools for providing superior living and working spaces are readily available now.

Is superior indoor air quality that big a deal? In addition to concerns over what we breathe indoors, studies such as the one run by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and United Technologies indicate that tight buildings without superior ventilation contribute to sluggish performance and less astute thinking. When cognitive skills improve by 61 percent for subjects under green building conditions and by 101 percent in green buildings with further enhanced ventilation, it’s time to realize what that can mean for productivity. Since productivity is all about making efficient use of time and time is money, you do the math.

Setting green standards. Certifications and rating systems such as ENERGYSTAR®, LEED, and Passive House Institute U.S. have become some of the driving forces and tools behind creating green indoor environments. We think of energy-efficient savings when considering many of them. The International WELL Building Institute’s WELL Building Standard, however, sets its focus on the impact of buildings on human health and wellness, offering four levels of scoring and certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.

Be WELL Informed. According to the IWBI, designers, engineers, builders, operators, and owners of buildings have an obligation to create indoor environments that move all of us in the direction of health. The WELL Building Standard is the result of a comprehensive scientific, practitioner, and medical peer review process that took six years, and it is still a work in progress. When Version 2 came out in May 2018, it streamlined the lessons from about 1,000 projects, plus the health research and data accumulated since the standard took off in 2014. Today, the WELL standard covers ten concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, and Community. The concepts are designed to meet WELL’s six key principles as defined by the IWBI:

Equitable. Provides the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people, inclusive of all demographic and economic groups and with special consideration of groups of the least advantage or vulnerable populations.

Global: Proposes interventions that are feasible, achievable and relevant across many applications throughout the world.

Evidence-based: Undergirded by strong, validated research yielding conclusions that can reasonably be expected to receive acceptance by the scientific community.

Technically robust: Draws upon industry best practices and proven strategies, offering consistency in findings across the relevant field or discipline.

Customer-focused: Defines program requirements through a dynamic process, with multiple opportunities for stakeholder engagement, and by tapping the expertise of established leaders in science, medicine, business, design and operations.

Resilient: Responds to advances in scientific knowledge and technology, continuously adapting and integrating new findings in the field.

WELL balanced solutions. In future articles, Haglid Engineering will be diving into WELL Building Standard concepts to demonstrate their importance and offer solutions for meeting them in your space. As the benefits to building, owning, and living in healthier spaces show themselves through higher leasing rates, greater marketability, and the willingness of people to pay higher rents for sounder living situations, the WELL Building Standard grows in its usefulness in meeting sustainable, healthful goals. Where can you begin in adjusting construction or retrofitting plans so you don’t miss out? A good engineering firm that prides itself on sustainable, energy-efficient practices is a smart place to start. Contact us at Haglid Engineering!

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