WELL Design: A New Approach to Maximizing Human Potential in the Built Environment

| July 26, 2016

by Alexandra Lopatynsky

Alex Lopatynsky

Alex Lopatynsky

The health and wellness movement that we are experiencing in America is part of a new and more integrated way of looking at human performance and wellbeing. In recent decades, our lives have become less active and more stressed. Individuals spend more hours at work; children spend more time interacting with a variety of screens and devices; we eat more processed food; we spend less time outdoors.

Given that individuals spend more than 90% of their time inside, the built environment has an increasingly profound impact on our health, happiness, productivity, and well-being. As development, design, and construction professionals, we all know the difference our work makes in creating positive and productive environments. More than a decade ago, a greater focus on green/sustainable design became an important factor in our industry.

Now, in response to trends in current behavior, a new standard has emerged that focuses on maximizing human performance within the built environment. Combining the accumulated knowledge of the past with new and compelling research, development and technologies, The WELL Building Standard provides an exciting dimension to the design and project development process.

Three senior members of the JCJ Architecture team were invited to participate and earn provisional accreditation through the first International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) WELL AP seminar. Initially developed by Delos Living LLC, this program brings together seven years of collaboration between healthcare and industry experts in the form of an evidence-based system that provides standards for measuring, certifying (the WELL Building Standard is administered by the IWBI and committed to third-party certification through the Green Building Certification Institute), and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and wellbeing. This standard is not just an outgrowth of the sustainability movement, but is the next logical step toward a holistic approach to design.

As one of the first firms to have WELL-accredited professionals, JCJ is actively using the approach to add value for our clients by creating enhanced and beneficial experiences for the users of their buildings. The ultimate goal of the WELL Building Standard is to educate industry stakeholders about environments that contribute to human health and business performance by marrying the best innovations in technology, health, science, design, and enterprise.

Utilizing seven components — air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind — the standard provides options for design integration as well as educates owners on operational changes and policies that have a beneficial impact without significant additional cost. Having integrated some of these principles in several projects, we have seen a shift in the dialogue with owners and stakeholders alongside greater interest coming out of the process. From corporate offices with standing workstations and living green walls to public spaces with stairs that are more inviting and encourage walking, we are seeing our work produce subtle changes in behavior and interesting shifts in results: Imagine meetings that increase productivity, mental acuity, and alertness, even if you are indoors all day; envision environments that utilize lighting that syncs with your circadian rhythm.

We feel so strongly about this movement at JCJ Architecture that we recently incorporated WELL Building Standards into our new corporate office headquarters and plan to be the first WELL-certified office space in New England. Every day we experience first-hand the impact these subtle design elements and operational modifications have on people’s behavior, performance, and habits, and we are excited and optimistic about the potential for further innovation.

Alexandra Lopatynsky, AIA, WELL AP (Provisional), is a principal and senior project manager at JCJ Architecture. 

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