Any serious attempt to improve wellbeing in buildings needs to define in more detail what it actually involves. The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) has developed the WELL2 standard which identifies more than 100 aspects of wellbeing which can in turn be grouped into ten dimensions.
Producing and maintaining a building that promotes wellbeing will tend to involve three key areas of activity.
The design of the building and the way it is constructed will be critical in setting parameters many of which will be hard to alter later.
The building services and their technology, which will include HVAC, lighting, security and building automation will be key in overcoming any issues not resolved at the design stage.
Even a well-designed building, deploying the most appropriate technology, is likely to struggle if the disciplines responsible for running the building and the organisation are not playing their part effectively, that is to say, HR and Facility Management, which will include service and maintenance.
When BSRIA looked at the relative importance of design, building services and technology and the human organisation, a clear pattern emerged. The design of the building is particularly important where movement, sound and materials are concerned. These are all basic “building blocks” which are hard to improve post construction.
Building services such as Building Automation Controls (BACS) and HVAC are especially important when it comes to improving air quality, thermal comfort and light ; given the importance of artificial lighting in most commercial buildings.
“Human” services, such as HR and FM really come into their own when it comes to matters of community, mind and water. A healthy, well run building will need the design, the building technology and the “human” services to work together effectively.
Where an existing building is being refurbished then it will be much harder to change the basic structure and technology and services such as BACS will become even more central.
Regulatory pressure has been critical to improving the energy performance of buildings. Given governments’ growing interest in wellbeing and improved working conditions – as opposed to simply maximising output, it will be interesting to see whether there is similar pressure to make buildings “healthier”.