Buildings aid wellbeing

By - , Build 160

A rooftop garden, a wellness hub and a working environment tailored for comfort – these are all things you might enjoy if employed in a well-accredited building, as notions of sustainable design broaden.

Lendlease offices in Sydney are the first new builds in Australia to be certified to the WELL standard.
Lendlease offices in Sydney are the first new builds in Australia to be certified to the WELL standard.

A RATING standard developed in the US that is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of buildings that impact the health and wellbeing of occupants is gaining traction globally. It advances notions of building sustainability by adding attributes such as good nutrition, physical activity and mental health to benefit those actually working in a building.

Going beyond sustainability

The WELL Building Standard, administered by the International WELL Building Institute, has been or is being implemented in 200 projects in 14 countries, with seven in Australia.

In March 2016, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) partnered with the International WELL Building Institute to promote health and wellbeing in the design, construction and operations of buildings in Australia.

The agreement aligns the Australia’s Green Star sustainability rating with WELL in the same way the standard aligns with LEED in the US and BREEAM in the UK.

‘Increasingly, Australians recognise that our buildings have a dramatic impact on our health and wellbeing,’ said Romilly Madew, GBCA Chief Executive. ‘This partnership is an important step towards designing and building places that are sustainable, productive and healthy.

‘A truly sustainable building not only addresses environmental impact but social and economic impact too. Green Star’s focus on indoor environmental quality provides a critical foundation for human health and wellbeing.

‘WELL enhances this through its dedicated focus on evidence-based medical and scientific research and measurable performance.’

Seven wellbeing concepts

The WELL Building Standard encompasses seven health and wellbeing concepts:

  • Water quality – safe and clean water.
  • Nourishment – making fresh, wholesome foods available.
  • Light quality – providing lighting that minimises disruption to the circadian system, enhances productivity and supports good sleep quality.
  • Fitness – encouraging physical activity.
  • Comfort – optimising thermal, acoustic, ergonomic and olfactory comfort indoors.
  • Mind – optimising mental and emotional health through design, technology and strategies such as mindfulness training.

From chickens on the roof to wellness hub

Banking company Macquarie Group was the first Australian company to pursue a WELL certification with the refurbishment of it Sydney headquarters in Martin Place in 2016.

Food served in the building’s café has a low sugar content. There are yoga and music rooms, fitness facilities, mindfulness training programmes, a choir and a roof garden with chickens, beehives and vegetables.

Meanwhile, Lendlease’s 6 Star Green Star new global headquarters at Barangaroo in Sydney has a wellness hub. Geoff Dutaillis, Lendlease Group Head of Sustainability, said this contributes to achieving WELL Building Standard certification. ‘It demonstrates our commitment to elevating human health and wellness to the forefront of built environment practices.’

The wellness hub supports the concepts of fitness, mind and comfort in the WELL Building Standard, using design and place activation complemented by policies and a programme of activities and events.

Emerging interest in New Zealand

Sam Archer, Director of Market Transformation at the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC), says there is an emerging interest in the concept of occupant health and wellbeing as an integral part of a sustainable building. ‘We see the wellbeing discussion as part of a wider discussion on the importance of placing people at the forefront of sustainable buildings rather than concentrating purely on environmental performance – energy and water.’

He says that NZGBC is hearing of interest in WELL by some New Zealand offices currently in design. ‘No doubt WELL will appear in New Zealand at some point in the next few years, and we support its use here.

‘Our rating tool for new commercial buildings, Green Star, already incorporates many aspects of wellness such as good daylight and air. For that reason, GBCA has entered into an agreement with the WELL Institute whereby they will cross-credit similar performance under Green Star. NZGBC is likely to follow suit.’

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Lendlease offices in Sydney are the first new builds in Australia to be certified to the WELL standard.
Lendlease offices in Sydney are the first new builds in Australia to be certified to the WELL standard.