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How the WELL Building Standard Is Changing HOK’s Approach to Design

Joyce Chan, head of sustainability in HOK’s London studio, describes how WELL is helping designers improve the health and well-being of building occupants.

The WELL Building Standard is the International WELL Building Institute’s evidence-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring building performance features that address well-being. Pioneered by Delos, a wellness real estate and technology firm, the system 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. WELL certified spaces improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance of their occupants.

HOK has partnered with Delos to enhance the ability of the firm’s designers to integrate health and wellness into projects.

In its November 2017 issue, OnOffice Magazine interviewed Chan about the impact of WELL and how this new standard is helping HOK’s teams take a more people-centric design approach.

“WELL promotes health by stealth, providing a holistic environment, better space design and elements including improved daylight, healthier food and fresher air,” she said. “This all provides compound impacts on the different human body systems. Occupants improve well-being by default without actively needing to engage.”

HOK provided interior design and sustainability consulting for TD’s renovated office within the Toronto-Dominion Centre in downtown Toronto. The project achieved WELL Gold certification.

WELL is inherently human-centric, concentrating on the person rather than a metric like energy consumption. “This makes sense as occupants, not buildings, consume energy,” she said.

Chan tells OnOffice that investing in people, for which there is a robust business case, is core to WELL. “People account for 90 percent of corporate expenditures. If WELL can enable a healthier, more engaged and more productive workforce, there will be financial benefits. … Delos’ research shows that WELL increases employee satisfaction and also plays a critical role in retention and productivity, with reduced sick leave and turnover among the other benefits.”

Unlike other rating systems, WELL requires ongoing performance verification for three years. Sustaining initial enthusiasm after certification admittedly is one of the challenges.

“WELL is really an attempt to make a cultural change and to quantify something we couldn’t before: quality of space and health,” said Chan. “The interest so far has been extremely encouraging.“

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