WELL buildings are good for mental health

There was a lot of talk some years ago about “sick building syndrome”. But now architects and designers are moving forward through the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

It launched a movement to address issues regarding health and well-being within the built environment (issues which are somewhat overlooked by existing standards). From this the WELL Building Standard™ was established, with the aim to provide architects and designers with guidelines on how to make a real and measurable difference to how we function within our urban spaces. And even if your project doesn’t aim for certification the WELL standard offers an inspirational model when considering a human centred design approach.

The concept is known as biophilic design, and there’s a recognised accreditation (https://www.wellcertified.com) that I’m now following, aiming to become a WELL Accredited Professional. And I’m working with the local experts Epixx at their new showroom to explore putting ideas into practice.

WELL notes seven concepts that must be considered and fulfilled in the scope of a design: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Why does this matter? Why do we need “positive spaces”?

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Designing with people in mind is a growing topic that can no longer be overlooked; the Human Spaces Report found that a third of global respondents stated office design affects their decision of where to work.

With over half the world’s population now living in cities, chronic illnesses are becoming increasingly prevalent. Globally, research shows, 76% of employees report a struggle with wellbeing, and work-related stress costs the US approximately €255 billion and Europe €550 billion annually. These issues indicate a clear need for healthier spaces.

Better indoor air quality can lead to an 8-11% improvement in productivity. Better nutrition leads to a 27% reduction in depression, a 13% reduction in stress, and overall better mental health. Being closer to windows makes us more productive, especially if there is a view onto nature. And adding plants into the workplace significantly reduces stress, health concerns, and sickness absence.

In Mental Health Awareness week, we feel it’s important to start taking these issues seriously. We’ll report back with further findings.

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