As we head into 2021, Kahler Slater is sharing insights on how wellness and health influence the built environment. The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI™) is the leading global rating system and the first to be focused exclusively on the ways that buildings, and everything in them, can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance, not compromise, our health and wellness. We’ve asked several of our WELL Accredited Professionals to share thoughts on how wellness, health, and sustainability impact the markets they serve.
We begin with Interior Designer Anna Bergman. Anna has served corporate clients both domestic and internationally and recently became a WELL AP. Here, she shares how her passion for design drives her to create opportunities for wellness in her clients' workspaces. She touches on how employers can consider strategies beyond the built environment to improve their employee’s health, engagement, and recruitment/retention.
Why did you want to pursue the WELL AP credential?
One of the reasons I became a designer was to be able to positively impact the way individuals and communities live and work. People spend so much of their time indoors – Americans as much as 90% of their time – and interior designers can have a significant impact on how healthy these environments are for their occupants. WELL is the first certification program that I believe truly recognizes this notion. They review the built environment and adverse effects on our health – and then advocate to create policy and guidelines to help create healthier environments as well as lower our carbon footprint.
By seeking tangible results on how space can dictate and support a healthy lifestyle, the design community directly contributes to positively improving the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve. As we embark into 2021, it is more important than ever to explore and consider how our built environment affects our wellbeing.
What does the WELL Building Standard mean in terms of corporate design?
As applied to the corporate environment, WELL not only asks architects and consultants to create healthier spaces for the workforce, but it asks employers to reconsider their employee health policies. When considering WELL with our clients, we help them realize they have an opportunity to leverage their project to identify ways to create healthier work spaces as well as improve corporate guidelines as they relate to employee mental and physical health. It’s a unique way to relook at benefits offered and how features can be added to not only guide a healthier workplace but retain and attract employees.
How might an employer start to integrate WELL concepts into their workplace without taking on a major renovation or new building project?
A great way to start incorporating WELL concepts beyond built solutions would be to look at the policy-driven features, nourishment, and fitness opportunities for your employees. These include items like access to fitness centers, ergonomic furniture solutions, healthcare benefits, and mental health benefits. Another consideration would be to promote the idea of movement, whether that is encouraging use of staircases and collaboration areas, active furniture such as standing desks, or creating dedicate space for exercise.
What is the connection between health and sustainability?
Sustainable efforts are often thought of as ways to improve the environment around us such as air and water quality. It is easy to overlook that sustainability has a direct impact on our individual health. By lowering our carbon footprint and eliminating hazardous materials, we help eliminate toxins from re-entering our own bodies and create communities that promote physical, social and mental wellbeing.