Designing for WELLbeing

Posted on Nov 17, 2015 by Theresa Lehman

Building green has always been about minimizing waste with a focus on three elements: enhancing the health and wellbeing of people, minimizing environmental impacts and improving the bottom line. Until recently, the cost of energy was relatively high, and sustainable design focused on improving the bottom line by reducing annual operational and maintenance costs. As it becomes clear that health is impacted by environment, however, that money-saving focus has shifted to the skyrocketing costs associated with healthcare. Research has shown that not only the amount of light, but type or quality of light, color of the interior space, acoustics, smells and sounds of a space, and other design elements can improve—or harm—our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Thanks to education and employee engagement programs, people are increasingly aware of and recognize the importance of corporate sustainability and wellness programs, and these aspects are now becoming the center of the latest evolution of sustainable design, construction and building performance.

People are a product of their environment; their health is directly impacted by what they eat, what they drink, the quality of the air they breathe, and how much physical activity they engage in. There is a significant amount of medical and scientific research that demonstrates a direct connection between human health and the buildings in which people spend most of their time. With the increasing costs of healthcare, unhealthy people can become an organization’s biggest expense.

With this in mind, in October of 2014, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), an organization dedicated exclusively to improving human health and wellbeing, held its first annual symposium to unveil the WELL Building Standard®. Created through six years of research by scientists, leading medical professionals, and expert practitioners from the building industry, the WELL Building Standard measures, certifies, and monitors features that impact human wellness in the built environment. These standards promote evidence-based, health-related research, and best design and construction practices that improve the way people live by developing spaces that enhance occupant health and quality of life. WELL is third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which is the same body that administers the LEED certification program and the LEED professional credentialing program.

WELL and LEED are both performance-based standards, however WELL focuses solely on occupant health within the built environment and the positive impact on productivity and overall wellbeing and includes features that are currently not addressed in LEED, such as fitness, nutrition, and mental and emotional health. While WELL has some overlap of LEED, the programs are designed to be complementary.

Official certification for this new program began in February 2015 when IWBI hosted its inaugural WELL Accredited Professional (AP) workshop at the Cleveland Clinic. Taught by medical and industry experts, attendees learned the medical basis of WELL and the standard’s design, implementation, and certification requirements in its seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Attendees also learned strategies for placing people at the heart of design, construction, and operations of facilities and the business case of health and wellness in the built environment.

IWBI and GBCI will launch the new professional credential for WELL for eligible professionals at Greenbuild in November 2015. Miron’s Theresa Lehman, LEED Fellow, director of sustainable services and a Provisional WELL AP, has assisted IWBI, GBCI and Prometric in the development the WELL Accredited Professional Exam.


About the International WELL Building Institute
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a for-benefit organization (B-Corp) whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment. IWBI administers the WELL Building Standard, which was initially developed by Delos. B-Corps like IWBI are a new US corporate structure for organizations that are committed to harnessing the power of private capital for public benefit.

About the WELL Building Standard®
The WELL Building Standard® is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Pioneered by Delos, the WELL Building Standard is grounded in evidence-based medical research that demonstrates the connection between the buildings where we spend more than 90 percent of our time and the health and wellness impacts on us as occupants. The WELL Building Standard is administered by the International WELL Building Institute and committed to third-party certification through the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

About Theresa Lehman

Dedicating her entire career to sustainable practice, Theresa has worked on more than 70 projects seeking LEED® certification utilizing the LEED®-NC, LEED®-CI, LEED®-CS, LEED®-EBOM, and LEED® for Schools green building rating systems. She has successfully certified projects that have earned LEED® certification at all four award levels including: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Her portfolio of LEED® projects includes many “Wisconsin firsts” such as the first State of Wisconsin LEED® certified project, the first healthcare facility, the first LEED®-EBOM Schools, the first LEED® for Schools project and the first zero-net energy / carbon neutral project–the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center–the “greenest building on the planet” according to Rick Fedrizzi, former President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council.

Get in touch with Theresa Lehman
View all posts by Theresa Lehman
[email protected]

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