Wellness Buildings – The New Standard

March 19, 2018

Wellness in the home is not a “new” topic but has recently been gaining more traction with the public.

The health and well-being of your building’s occupants isn’t just the purview of human resources anymore. The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. WELL combines 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.


Wellness buildings are not only energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable, but they’re also supposed to improve human health and quality of life. The WELL Building Standard sets performance requirements in seven Concepts relevant to occupant health in the built environment – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. WELL Certified™ spaces can help create a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of its occupants.

The basic purpose of building codes and standards is to protect the health and safety of occupants. Model codes absorb accepted science in time, but they can’t absorb it all. Codes must be written in enforceable language, deemed cost effective by core stakeholders in real estate and the building trades, and sold to constituents.


Still, the evolution continues, particularly in codes for sustainable and resilient design. In April 2017, the International Code Council (ICC) announced it would, in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the AIA, and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), merge its forthcoming 2018 edition of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) with ASHRAE 189.1, a parallel standard for high-performance green buildings.

Given the world’s deplorable rates of obesity and lifestyle-related chronic disease, the dual concerns of indoor environmental health and community wellness are a key frontline in green design.

While it’s unclear how explicit the language will be in the 2018 IgCC regarding strategies for public health, we do know the goal of the merged model codes is to provide fundamental criteria for energy efficiency, resource conservation, water safety, land use, site development, indoor environmental quality, and building performance that can be adopted broadly.

New IgCC

As the pioneering 2018-IgCC comes together, the ways in which developer compliance streamlines with USGBC LEED certification will be explored. Many of the building performance credits pursued by developers through LEED certification impart parallel benefits to occupant health, in lighting quality, ventilation, non-volatile construction materials, and enhanced green space. If widespread local adoption sets in, the reach of such standards will grow exponentially. Hopefully rising in time to meet the immense public health challenge – those modern ills of place and behavior that are prematurely killing us.