Health and wellbeing (both mental and physical), alongside sustainability, continue to be dominant issues in society.
But what can we do to address these issues in the construction and
building design industries?
With increasing urbanisation being recognised as directly impacting wellbeing, it’s important that we create spaces to nurture and promote a sense of wellness in individuals.
The idea of planning buildings and towns to promote wellbeing is far from new. Back in 1903, Ebenezer Howard’s garden city movement resulted in the building of Letchworth Garden City, a town where people could live harmoniously with nature to promote greater wellbeing. However, with the rapid growth of urbanisation, priority has often been given to space maximisation and squeezing in as much building into as little space as possible, rather than the impact of building design on wellbeing.
Whilst human-centred design as a key consideration in building development has been a relatively recent resurgence, sustainable design has been a feature for a number of years. And with the recent climate crises happening around the globe, we can no longer ignore the pressing need to ensure everything we build is done as sustainably as possible.
In recent years, three key accreditations have been developed to promote wellbeing and sustainability in construction:
BREEAM is an international scheme which focuses on the sustainability of buildings, communities and infrastructure projects. Projects are assessed by an independent, qualified third party and awarded accreditation against a set of sustainability standards.
The sustainability of each project is measured across a series of categories, ranging from energy to ecology. Each of these categories addresses the most influential factors, including low impact design and carbon emissions reduction; design durability and resilience; adaption to climate change; and ecological value and biodiversity protection.
Developed in the US, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings.
WELL offers a framework to help improve health and well-being for everyone that visits, works in or experiences your building. It consists of a number of standards that must be met across a framework to support wellbeing, including:
Air – e.g. ventilation, VOC reduction and humidity control
Water – e.g. water quality, drinking water accessibility etc
Nourishment – e.g. healthier foods, nutritional information, mindful eating etc
Light – e.g. Circadian lighting, optimised daylight, balanced lighting etc
Fitness – e.g. promote movement and fitness opportunities etc
Comfort – e.g. Reduce noise intrusion, ergonomic design, controllable temperatures etc
Mind – e.g. environments that have a positive impact on mood, references to nature etc
Innovations – i.e. unique features that support the WELL framework
Each accreditation scheme involves scoring a building’s performance against a set of defined criteria and then awarding a level of accreditation. The good news is that if you’re interested in applying for more than one of the schemes, the three bodies have joined up to align themselves, so you can apply for multiple accreditations without duplicating work where possible. More information can be found at: https://standard.wellcertified.com/well-crosswalks
What is the benefit of applying for sustainability and/or wellness building accreditations?
When it comes to workplace design in particular, the benefits can be huge. In the words of Oliver Heath, eco-designer, ‘As our physical and social environments are amongst the largest determinants of health, healthier environments lead to healthier people.’
The World Green Building Council’s report Doing Right by P
lanet and People: The Business Case for Health and Wellbeing in Green Building highlights the tangible economic benefits and the increased occupant satisfaction of implementing green building strategies alongside new health and wellbeing features.
After adding health and wellbeing features into green-certified buildings, companies found that:
- Employee absenteeism was reduced
- Operating costs were minimised
- Employees felt more productive and healthier
How sustainability and wellness accreditations can help your finances
According to the UK Green Building Council, 90% of business overheads are attributed to staff costs, and so any improvements in staff’s physical and mental health will have a large positive financial impact. In addition, studies show that companies prioritising employee engagement and wellbeing outperform those that don’t by an average of 10%.
Cundall, a London-based engineering firm, was the first European building to achieve gold-level WELL accreditation. As a result of the changes implemented, it saw a 27% reduction in staff turnover and a 50% drop in absenteeism, resulting in a saving of £112,000 in the first year. Energy saving measures also result in cost savings.
If you’re about to take on a construction or refurbishment project, have a look at the accreditations above and see if they could help you create a better, healthier solution. Apollo have experience in sustainable projects and are happy to provide a quote for your design and build project.