Smart Buildings (Part 3): WELLness by Design
What makes a building “smart?” Technology is a key component to be sure, but the idea can also relate to how those using the building are affected. In this, the last of a three-part series on smart buildings, we take a closer look at how structures can promote wellness and productivity, and in doing so, generate higher revenues.
How Smart Buildings Impact Productivity
When discussing smart buildings, it is clear how our previous two components — sustainability/energy and connectivity — influence a tenant’s ability to perform work while reducing any negative impact on the world outside. But anyone who has worked in a dark, stuffy office knows that it’s not the most inspiring or healthy environment to be in, regardless of how fast the internet is.
Commercial building owners have taken notice, too, leading many to pursue a positive WELL rating — that is, a certification based on features such as light, temperature, and amenities.
What is the WELL Building Standard?
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) created the WELL Building Standard to explore how building design, operations, and behaviors can be optimized to advance human health and well-being. Currently, two WELL rating versions are available.
WELL Building Standard version 1.0 is applicable specifically to commercial and institutional buildings, divided into three project types: buildings, interiors, and core and shell. The seven elements of WELL version 1.0 are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.
Examples of “mind” optimization would be to discourage employees from working late, as well as providing access to stress and addiction treatment.
Another version, 2.0, has been added, which measures a building’s wellness based on 11 components: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, community, and innovation.
WELL Building Standard version 2.0 expands on the previous components to include a wider picture of tenant health — ranging from access to nutritious foods to designs that encourage movement.
Why Building Owners and Tenants Should Care About Wellness
It turns out that landlords and commercial tenants have more to gain from employee well-being than just getting the “warm and fuzzies.” In exchange for a more productive and positive workspace, tenants will pay up to 20% more over premium, while enjoying significant savings on operational costs.
A whopping 90% of business costs are allocated to staff and salaries and those costs increase when employees can’t or won’t perform their duties.
According to Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer, released by workforce solution company Circadian, unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees.
Reasons for absenteeism can range from sleep deprivation and depression – both impacted by light exposure – to health problems that can be alleviated by nutrition and fitness regimes.
The simple act of improving temperature levels or reducing sound can make a huge difference, according to Oliver Health Design. Distracting office noise can lower work performance by 66%, and non-optical building temperatures can reduce productivity by 6%, the company reported.
Other benefits of owning a WELL-certified building, per Chester Energy & Policy include:
- The parts of a WELL-certified building that increase employee happiness and well-being are also likely to lead to satisfied and engaged workers, and companies with such employees experience 25% to 65% less staff turnover. Such increases to staff retention are extremely valuable to employers due to the high costs of replacing employees who leave the organization.
- Many aspects of the WELL Building Standard spur increased productivity across the enterprise, such as one Harvard study that found that office workers increase their productivity by the equivalent of $6,500 per year when ventilation rates are optimized.
- After the implementation of WELL strategies, some buildings saw up to a 12% reduction in energy use and a 40% reduction in water consumption, both of which will show up as financial savings on a recurring monthly basis.
Why Cities Should Care about Smart Building Wellness
Cities are employers too, facing the same battles when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. The best way to do this is to provide workplace facilities that enhance people’s lives.
With the average person in a city spends 90% of the time indoors, it is imperative that this time is enhanced rather than stifled. The WELL rating has created a global standard that employees around the world are aware of and many now look for when choosing a company to work for and a city to work in.