This summer, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) released a report exploring the growth and interest for obtaining health and wellness certifications to give buildings and developments a competitive edge.
What are these certifications, exactly, and how do they differ from a green or sustainability certification?
They certainly overlap, says ULI senior vice president Rachel MacCleery, but health and wellness certifications “focus on the human being in the space, rather than having the emphasis be the energy savings or carbon emissions. They’re really looking at how the human being interacts with a building and other human beings within the building,” she explains.
In the last two years, two health and wellness certification programs, Fitwel and WELL Building Standard, have grown exponentially in their portfolios. That’s because the industry is seeing a widely increased interest – from consumers and building users – in leading a healthy lifestyle.
People want to walk and bike to work, eat more food that’s nutritious, and overall achieve better emotional and physical wellbeing. The industry is also responding to troubling public health trends of inequitable access to healthy places.
“Owners are stepping up and thinking OK, what role can we play in helping to not just keep people safe – which has been a core focus of building trades for a long time – but how can we more proactively support health and wellness?” MacCleery says.
Elements that can contribute to a healthy workplace could include advanced water purification systems, stretching and relaxation areas on each floor, treadmill desks or enticing artwork on the walls.
“A key benefit [of having this certification] is being able to signal to potential tenants or buyers that health is a priority for you, and you’re taking concrete action to improve health and wellness,” MacCleery says.
“That might attract more buyers to your space. It might mean you can command more of a price premium. It might mean over the long term your building is more likely to hold value. Especially in an office context, users of these certifications are seeing performance and productivity benefits,” MacCleery continues.
MacCleery adds that this health and wellness certification trend is one that this likely to continue growing. She recommends facility managers and buildings owners visit the websites for Fitwel and WELL to learn more and see what resonates.
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