reating sustainable buildings which make occupants feel better as well as happier and more productive should be a given, and part of the culture of a business. After all, we spend a lot of time at work (90% of employees admit their work is affected by the quality of their environment) so it’s important that we look at ways to improve this work/life balance.
The WELL building standard is the first standard to focus on the health and wellness of the people in buildings. It centres on seven ‘Concepts’ – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind – and demonstrates the connection between buildings and its impact on people’s health and wellness. By marrying WELL with BREEAM it will certainly make it easier for project teams to link sustainability and wellbeing, and achieve best practice.
Our future workplace
WELL essentially takes an element within BREEAM and focuses on it very effectively. It puts into a context that widens the discussion further than construction and refurbishment. From a commercial perspective, it takes it away from the capital expenditure and puts the decision onto the operational expenditure. By doing so, it enables us all within the construction industry to have conversations with departments and areas of the business we wouldn’t normally have. In other words, the standard enables us to speak to everyone from human resources to CFOs and CEOs.
WELL looks at the heart of the business and asks “are your staff really important to you and if they are, how are they important and where are they important to you?”. When you look at how staff have been treated over the last 100 years, it has evolved into being about the people at work, rather than the people that own the business. In the early part of the 20th century, the focus was on the people who ran the business with staff fortunate to just have a job. People now have more choice about where they work. “Am I looked after and will they cater to my development, be that professionally as well as mentally and physically?”. When employees are valued and looked after, they are more motivated and will do their absolute best for an organisation. Furthermore, a WELL certification has to be renewed every three years as opposed to BREEAM which is for the life of that building. It’s therefore not a standard that captures a moment in time.
In terms of assessing under both schemes, the process will be simplified and more efficient following the publication of a new briefing paper, ‘Assessing Health and Wellbeing in Buildings’, which states that approximately 35% of credits under BREEAM and WELL will be recognised by each organisation. Project teams won’t have to submit documentation twice. As another step in the right direction, the document also clarifies where WELL requirements are covered by UK and/or EU regulations, and where these can be omitted from an assessment for buildings undergoing a WELL assessment in these territories.
The way that the WELL standard helps the assessor is excellent and there is plenty of customer support. They will discuss with you the best way to do it and what is achievable.
The challenge is, how do we adopt wellness in the same way that we have embraced sustainability? It’s also critically important that we look at WELL as an operational cost rather than a capital cost. The cost per head for a WELL fit-out, for example, will make it much more manageable in the longer term.
When you consider that we spend over 90% of our time indoors and in an office environment, we wholeheartedly believe that wellbeing should be a part of every building whether it’s a home, school, hospital or office.
The marriage between BREEAM and WELL will put a focus on the end-user and their wellbeing – after all, a sustainable building is not just about energy performance, aesthetics and the materials that are used to build it, it’s also about the people who use that building being in a healthy environment where they can maximise being in the ‘zone’ and up their game. It will help us feel better about ourselves, others, overcome problems and result in us being more productive. It will help us to be inspired and to inspire others. That is good for the business, shareholders and, ultimately, dare I say, society.