How Healthy is Your Building? Construction with Wellness in Mind.
For the past decade, there has been a big push towards green design principles to build more environmentally friendly buildings that increase energy efficiency while reducing our carbon footprint. And thanks to the Green Building Council, LEED and other green building initiatives, it has largely accomplished what it set out to do, which is to remove billions of pounds of pollution every year from the air we breathe to create a healthier environment.
But while buildings were getting healthier, workers didn’t seem to be getting any more physically fit. In fact, worker health seemed to be going in the wrong direction. And with more than one-third of the U.S. adult population considered obese, it was enough for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to declare it a national epidemic. Aside from increased health risks associated with heart disease, diabetes and stroke, obesity adds more than $140 B in annual health care costs. Approximately 70 percent of obese adults are between 20 and 59 years old.
Aided by certified architects and wellness building contractors like New Horizon Contracting, new wellness building design standards are taking green building principles to the next level in an effort to help workers become healthier in the workplace. Emerging wellness standards such as the WELL Building Standard and Fitwel are including a focus on improving employee health and wellness during the initial building design. Many companies around the country are taking the lead and incorporating one or both wellness standards into their existing buildings. Based on data from the National Business Group on Health®, wellness spending among large employers is up more than 60% since 2010, to approximately $700 per year, per employee.
WELL Building Standard
Developed by the International Well Building Institute™, this standard takes a scientific approach based on medical research to determine a building’s health and wellness of its occupants. Buildings are scored by how well they perform across 7 core principles: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. While this may resemble something like the familiar food pyramid, these core principles are considered the building blocks when designing with wellness in mind. Depending on performance, buildings can receive silver, gold and platinum certification. WELL buildings are certified by Green Building Certification, Inc. (GBCI), the third-party credentialing authority for LEED. Sydney-based Mirvac, became the first commercial building in Australia to receive WELL gold certification. The building incorporated several forward-thinking initiatives to improve worker health and wellness. The company tapped the minds of its workers through employee engagement sessions that led to focusing on indoor environment quality, community health and wellness, educating wellness through building design and measuring sustainable working environments.
Fitwel was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in cooperation with the General Services Agency (GSA). Fitwel takes a holistic approach towards improving building design for employee health and wellness. It is emerging as the leading wellness building standard in the U.S. and Canada. The Bloomberg Tower is a 900,000 square foot office building on the east side of Manhattan that recently received a 3-star Fitwell certification from the Centers of Active Design (CAD) for its building design improvements that promote employee health and wellness. Some of the improvements include offering healthy food choices with access to community supported agriculture (CSA) deliveries at work. And an interior stairwell system encourages employees to stay active while going up and down its 29-story headquarters.
To learn how to incorporate health and wellness design standards into your new or existing building, contact New Horizon Contracting today!