Green Infrastructure and the WELL Building Standard

A lot of building services engineers and property developers have been talking about the WELL Building Standard recently. Unlike other popular rating systems and building standards, WELL focuses exclusively on how a building affects the health and well-being of the people that occupy it.

It was launched in 2014 and there are already a few hundred registered or certified WELL projects around the world. So far, WELL has been optimised for commercial and institutional office buildings but, through pilot programs, it is expanding to other building types, including residential. While most are in the United States and China, there are WELL projects in at least 25 other countries. There are currently more than 30 projects in Australia and, particularly given the calibre of organizations that are getting involved, WELL looks set to have a big influence on the construction and management of Australian buildings.

One of the interesting things about WELL is that, even though it is focused on people’s well-being, there is a lot of alignment with green ideals. After all, healthy people need a healthy and sustainable environment. Reinforcing this alignment is the synergy between WELL and Australia’s own sustainability rating system, Green Star. As of 2017, this includes official guidance for those seeking a dual rating for the two programs.

The alignment also provides opportunities to use green infrastructure, such as green roofs and walls, to achieve WELL certification. Indeed, green infrastructure is already commonly used in office buildings, at least partly for its known benefits for wellbeing and productivity.

How WELL calls for green infrastructure

A solid understanding of the value delivered by green infrastructure is critical to maximising its use in WELL. Most notably, green infrastructure can be used to satisfy Features 88 and 100, which are both called Biophilia. Biophilia refers to our innate affinity with the natural world. In WELL, these features are listed under the Mind concept, as a benefit for the nervous system. It recognizes that a connection with the natural environment can have a positive effect on human health, stress, and productivity.

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