Blog - The WELL Certified Office

Photograph of the outside of the Geyser Building, WELL Certified Office, AucklandThe built environment, new technology and the way a workspace is laid out all impact on workplace wellness. In my previous blog, I wrote about a speaker I heard talking about mobile technology use when I was up in Auckland at the Workplace Wellness symposium in June.

In recent months I have also written a series of Canterbury Today articles, which focus on the use of glass, concrete and wood as building materials and the effects of each of these on the building users,.

If you know me, you’ll know I have a keen interest in how buildings are put together, so you can probably imagine just how interested I was to hear Tony Armstrong from CBRE and Jessica Cooper from Delos, (two of the other speakers at the symposium) talking about the WELL Certified Office.

Why build a WELL Certified Office?

The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI) has a mission to improve health and wellbeing through the built environment. This mission, along with its associated approach, has the potential to positively reshape public health through increased wellbeing and happiness, plus lead to increased savings and workplace productivity. This is an amazingly broad view to take, looking beyond immediate investment, rather looking to the long term, and one which could realistically have a hugely positive impact on businesses.

Where did the idea come from?

Photograph of the central outside courtyard of the Geyser Building, AucklandThis idea evolved from the WELL Building Standard® (WELL) which is administered by the IWBI, a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment. It provides guidelines for improving buildings in their performance and creating a healthier environment – at a number of different levels of development -, whether it is an existing building being revamped, or an entirely new building.

IWBI was launched by Delos in 2013, following a Clinton Global Initiative commitment by Delos founder Paul Scialla to improve the way people live by developing spaces that enhance occupant health and quality of life by sharing WELL globally. In the States this emerging type of structure is being created within businesses aiming to balance public benefits with profitability.

The Seven Concepts of the Wellbeing Standard

The 7 concepts of the wellbeing standard that impact occupant health are:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Nourishment
  • Light
  • Fitness
  • Comfort
  • Mind

What is the key it its success?

Apart from this seemingly amazing and exciting concept being way ahead in its thinking (in terms of its holistic approach) the key to its success lies in the fact that Delos also incorporate post occupancy checks to the process to ensure everything is working to standard. Certified offices also undergo a scheduled three-yearly recertification process, which as Jessica reported, is a critical part of the whole scheme. It is this planned, ongoing certified approach that encourages building users to proactively maintain their healthy buildings and the culture created around them, for the benefit of the occupants.

Tony Armstrong from the international commercial real estate company, CBRE, gave us statistics to make people sit up, take notice and realise the importance of looking after people.

In the States there has been a rapid increase in demand for healthcare of 99% according to the Aon Hewitt 2013 Health Care Survey.

The cost of having people off work can be 15% of total staffing costs, presenteeism (at work but not functioning at full potential) can be between 25 and 35% and there are also costs associated with “poor wellbeing”.

A worthwhile investment

In terms of User Economics in most businesses – energy takes 1%, rent 9% and salary/benefits – 90%.    It therefore makes sense that the logical place to focus during the building planning process  for a comparatively small investment – will lead to improvements that increase occupant productivity, as well as overall health and wellbeing; all benefits worth aiming for whatever type of organisation you work in!

Let’s build on this initiative

Overall I came away from the Symposium with some fascinating concepts to take on board and I’ll be very interested to hear more within the New Zealand, and particularly, Christchurch, within the property development scene, to see if this approach is being picked up.

At WorkSpace IQ, our own accreditation system recognises those organisations that proactively take care of their staff and we’d love to be giving out more accolades in this area.

If you know anyone working in this field, please do get in touch and spread the word. The framework is all there and it fits into the Green Building concepts which certainly are alive and well in New Zealand.

Let’s see how we can work together to keep building on this great initiative.