Designing according to WELL

On 30 November 2021

Nowadays we spend on average 90% of our time indoors. Due to the covid pandemic this has only increased. Because of this we are more and more conscious of our indoor environment on our well-being. Scientific research also demonstrates the effect of our health of the spaces where we find ourselves in to be big. A powerful tool to improve the health in building is the WELL Building Standard. This international method of certification focusses on a healthy work and living climate for users and is getting more attention by the hour.

FOCUS on WELL-BEING

There being more attention for well-being in the interior is also endorsed by Bénine Dekker, architect and WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) at Fokkema & Partners. Together with her coworker Valerie Arntz, architectural designer and as well WELL AP, she helps and advises clients with the integration of WELL in the building interior. “Before the covid pandemic already there was a noticeable change, where the focus has been shifted more and more to health. We spend so much time indoors, both at home as at work. The impact of the indoor environment on our health therefor is big. Covid has only made this awareness grow. At Fokkema we lately see an enormous interest with our clients when we tell them about WELL.”

What IS WELL exactly?

The WELL Building Standard is an international certification system focusing on the health and well-being of users in the built environment. In comparison to other quality marks for buildings, with WELL human are at the center instead of the building itself. The system is developed based on scientific research and involves around 11 themes (concepts) improving the health in buildings: air, water, nutrition, light, movement, thermic comfort, sound, materials, mental health, the community and innovation.

Bénine Dekker: “We think it’s great besides the sustainability marks like BREEAM and LEED, there now also is the WELL Building Standard, focusing on the physical and mental health of people. Of course there is overlap on certain factors between the several certifications. WELL looks in greater detail at the interior design besides the hull and also involves factors like HR. This holistic approach appeals to us a lot at Fokkema; by nature we were intensively working already for years on the complete user experience. Those procedures and results aren’t always visible with the bear eye. With the WELL Building Standard there is a label underpinning the effects of the building interior on our well-being and making results verifiable and measurable.”

The ROLe of floors IN relationship TO WELL

If we take a look at the role of floors, according to Bénine Dekker there are two factors within WELL on which clear improvement can be made: materials (VOCs) and mental health. “The floor covers a gigantic surface of the interior, so it’s no surprise the choice of flooring plays an important role. In terms of materials we mainly look at VOCs, meaning volatile organic compounds. Floors being prescribed within WELL are VOC low or preferably completely free of VOC. In the domain of mental health floors with natural patterns and dessins are a beautiful addition. It’s one of the ways to incorporate natural elements in the design, an aspect unconsciously having a positive impact on our mental health. Part of this is also the application of green, plants or designs with special rhythmicity. With regard to acoustics, the type of floor finishing definitely has influence on the sound absorption. But in this area the walls and ceilings are also of big importance.”

Holistic approach

WELL is not yet another checklist for buildings, but an extensive standard in which all elements and parties are involved into detail. This enables designers to create holistic designs to reach an integral end product together this way with people in the center. Bénine Dekker: “The nice thing here is WELL to really be visible for the user. Think of elements like plants, water sources, sit-stand workplaces and stimuli like the visible placement of the stairs to motivate you to take them instead of the elevator. But also things less in your face, like the amount of calories and allergens in dishes presented in the company restaurant contribute their part. How great to experience the advantages and for this all to contribute to the awareness process around health, also outside of the work environment.”

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