Early this October, property consultancy firm Knight Frank India signed a MoU with wellness real estate and technology firm Delos, to advance the cause of healthy buildings in India and encourage developers to get their projects WELL™ certified. Sourcing Hardware spoke to Knight Frank’s VP-technical services Sujatha Ganapathy, to understand the anatomy of a certified healthy building.
How is health connected with real estate design? How does building design impact occupants’ health, wellbeing, performance, and productivity?
Data shows that ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diarrheal diseases, besides others, are a major cause of deaths in India. Further, asthma is also a significant health issue. These health trends are focused on infectious, chronic and lifestyle diseases, which can be addressed by science-based healthy real estate interventions.
A healthy building places people at the heart of design, construction, operation and development decisions, and consequently adds value to real estate assets, generates savings in personnel costs and enhances overall human health. It is an important aspect in ensuring human well-being as it can shape habits, help balance the sleep-wake cycle, and drive us towards healthy choices. It provides a framework for project teams to incorporate a variety of strategies to integrate human health and wellbeing at the centre of building design, construction and operations.
A WELL certified project has the potential to add measurable value to the health, well-being, productivity, and happiness of building occupants.
Commercial spaces have traditionally opted for LEED certification. What more needs to be done to be a WELL space?
The WELL Building Standard™ is the first building standard to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in a building, rather than its energy use or carbon footprint. It is a performance-based system for measuring and certifying features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being.
WELL is grounded in a body of research that explores the connection between the buildings where we spend more than 90% of our time, and the health and wellness impacts on us as occupants. WELL certified spaces can help create a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance of its occupants. The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) requires all WELL certified spaces to meet performance metrics for indoor air quality, water quality and acoustics.
Performance verification, which is an onsite audit and visual assessment, occurs at least one-month post-occupancy and includes testing of the performance metrics and spot checks of all applicable features. Further, WELL requires projects to conduct an occupant survey to gather feedback on a variety of topics. This allows organisations to gain insight into areas that require improvement, as well as to compare progress across industries and locations. Independent, third-party onsite verification combined with occupant feedback creates unparalleled accountability for wellness in the workplace. Recertification every three years ensures that the project maintains the same high level of design, maintenance and operations over time.
What tangible results have been achieved by buildings that were certified WELL?
Over 190 million square feet of space has been accredited globally and this includes establishments in commercial, residential, educational and hospitality sectors. The World Green Building Council has found that employee absenteeism in WELL certified buildings has decreased by 19% and presenteeism has increased by 16%. This shows that WELL buildings positively impact human well-being.
What impact are WELL certifications likely to have on the marketability of real estate projects?
It has been observed that WELL buildings enjoy greater marketability and faster leasing and sales velocity due to an improved quality of life. It should be noted that wellness real estate focuses on seven key aspects, namely air, water, nourishment, physical fitness, light, comfort and mind. These aspects are important because they ensure the wellbeing of the occupants of a building, not just the building alone.
For employers, it will enable them to attract and retain high-quality employees, maximise employee performance and productivity, reduce impacts of absenteeism, and promote improved health for employees. Multifamily project owners can attract and retain residents, maximise rent potential and building resale value, differentiate their properties and promote optimal health and well-being of residents. For landlords too, it will help them attract and retain high-quality tenants, improve rental yields and cap values.