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PDAC’s Q1 Event: Making the Case for WELL Design

New York

March 5, 2020

On March 4, the Professional Development Advisory Council (PDAC) held the first event for 2020, a panel discussion panel discussion with five WELL AP professionals to discuss how WELL design impacts human health and wellness in the built environment. Back in 2014, the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) first launched the WELL Building Standard, which seeks to “implement, validate, and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.” While still relatively new, the WELL standard has been increasingly gaining popularity over the years and is a great tool to aid and inform better and more conscientious design.

The event was moderated by Helen Burke, Director at M. Moser. During the panel, the audience was given an overview of the WELL standards of design and the importance of built spaces that promote health and wellness.
The panel of speakers included:

  • Thomas Baade-Mathiesen, Vice President of Corporate Engagements at Altanova, a New York City based sustainability consulting firm focused on real estate
  • Maria Lomanto, Principal at DesignGLXY, an interior design firm founded on the principles of health, well-being, and sustainability in the built environment.
  • Whitney Nielsen, Workplace Strategist at M. Moser Associates, a global workplace design firm.
  • John Opperman, Executive Director at Earth Day Initiative, a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes environmental awareness and solutions through partnerships with schools, community organizations, businesses, and governments.
  • Angela Spangler, Director at the International WELL Building Institute, which works to transform buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive.

The event was held at M. Moser Associates, an office designed to meet LEED, WELL Platinum, and RESET Certification standards. The space provided an example of a workplace whose design is focused on and has been optimized with the health of its occupants. The space showcases appropriate lighting, green walls, and a variety of plants that help purify the air. Air quality sensors are scattered throughout in order to monitor and maintain a healthy environment. The office is a flexible and comfortable space that allowed the audience to experience the benefits of implementing WELL design firsthand.

The design standards required by WELL and other wellness-focused design practices pushes designers, scientists, and building professionals to create spaces that promote the health and well-being of its occupants. They relate to everything that an organization can do to optimize human health, ranging from issues like operating hours, physical and mental health as well as social development.

Key topics from the panel discussion:
How does one convince businesses to implement and consider wellness-focused design?
To understand the importance of the global wellness movement, it is necessary to establish the “why” at the beginning of a project. It was stressed that WELL and wellness-focused design is a strategy for reaching a goal, not the goal itself. Businesses may initially balk at the cost of implementing wellness-focused design strategies, but it is imperative to help them understand the tangible and intangible values that WELL brings. For example, employees who work in a comfortable environment can perform at a higher and more efficient level, which will ultimately benefit the company’s bottom line. Additionally, younger generations of the workforce are more in tune with health, wellness, and thoughtful design. An attractive and comfortable workspace can help attract and retain employees.

We’re seeing a shift in perception about sustainable design and the concept of wellness. John Opperman from Earth Day Initiative explained how the food and fashion industries have been marketing products that are sustainable and focused on wellness as premium products. This has become a great selling point and marketing opportunity because the messaging and perception has changed from one of sacrifice to one of superior quality.

If my workplace does not focus on wellness. What can I do?
In order to avoid being overwhelmed with the concept of wellness, the panelists recommended taking small manageable steps every day to become proactive about health and wellness in our respective workspaces.

First, it is important to be the person who brings up the topic and be the advocate of change in our workplace. Sometimes businesses don’t implement any changes simply because no one is asking for them. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps. Small modifications like adding air quality sensors; having interior plants to provide oxygen to the space; or even something as simple as having sparkling water in the office can make a difference in the workplace. It’s hard to bring about change without a voice, so be that voice!

Secondly, the panelists collectively recommended incorporating more movement into daily routines. Little things like setting up an alarm every two hours to remind yourself to stand or walk around to get some sunlight during the day can help you start incorporating a healthier routine into your day. Even something as simple as eating away from your desk can improve your health and wellness. Use your lunch time to socialize with a friend or interact with other teams and take a break from your computer.

The panel provided the audience with a wealth of information regarding the value of WELL and how to implement WELL design in our industry. By becoming leaders of change and starting to implement simple steps in our daily routines, we can start to see enormous benefits to our quality of life. Understanding and incorporating WELL standards will lead us to happier and healthier lives, not only in the workplace but also in our everyday routines.

Written by the members of the Professional Development Advisory Council

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