WELL is the first building standard to focus on enhancing people’s health and wellbeing through the built environment. In this article, authors Kaitlyn Gillis and Dak Kopec provide an overview of the WELL standard and its principles. They also examine Canada’s potential to establish itself as global leaders in the practice of creating healthy workplaces.
The WELL standard is premised on the World Health Organization’s definition of health as the optimal physical, psychological and sociological state of an individual—and not simply as the absence of disease or infirmity. This comprehensive definition has been around since 1948, but our practical conceptualization of health often remains centered on illness and injury. In every moment of life, humans are in an environment, whether it is natural or built. At all of these moments, there’s an opportunity to positively impact people’s health through design.
Canadians spend over 90 percent of their time indoors—either in buildings or in transit between them. While that’s been acknowledged by the design sector for some time, the health impact of spending so much time indoors has been relatively neglected. An emerging design trend is taking a hard look at how the built environment informs the health and wellbeing of building occupants. As a large and culturally diverse country with an emphasis on social justice, Canada has the potential to become a global leader in this health and wellbeing movement.
Over the past decade green building practices focusing on creating environmentally conscious buildings have become entrenched in the industry. Shifting towards a closer look at how buildings can positively impact the wellbeing of its occupants represents the next step in the path towards sustainability.