I can give you the statistics: Healthcare in America is more than 17% of the GDP. 20 diseases account for fully half of America’s health care spend, with diabetes, heart disease and hypertension being three of the top five causes. In the midst of the debate going on in the US about how to pay for healthcare, these are sobering numbers for sure.
And yet, what if I told you that 70% of these healthcare outcomes are based on the physical and social environments that we live in and work in daily. That includes our buildings, like how an office is designed or how our homes are constructed. But it also includes how we behave – how active we are, whether we smoke, and what we eat each day. It is clear that our physical environment has a significant impact on our health but it can also have an impact on our health-related behaviors.
It’s time we shift our approach from healthcare to health by delivering preventative medical intentions in the buildings where we live, work and play. Healthy building practices can connect the features of the spaces where we spend 90% of our time and the impact on human health and wellness, and intentionally designing with humans in minds shifts the equation substantially.
When we first began the conversation around healthy building, we knew that a huge piece of the puzzle would revolve around awareness, research and education. So we launched the WELL Building Standard (WELL) after six years of research and development, and it is now the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.
Since people are the biggest expense in any building, and the ultimate goal is to attract, retain, reduce risks and enhance experience for this enormous spend, we’re seeing rapid global adoption of WELL. We have more than 450 projects across 28 countries thanks to efforts by real estate professionals at every stage of the value chain who are advancing their knowledge of healthy building practices by becoming WELL APs.
Additionally, industry research is enhancing protocols and innovative technologies are beginning to fill in the pieces that make it possible for all buildings and communities to embrace health and wellness. As the healthy building movement continues to expand globally, real estate portfolios that are invested in this growing area are demonstrating significant leadership and a clear commitment to a healthier future.
This extraordinary adoption of healthy building is a strong indication of the value to both tenants and building owners. As financial groups include health and wellness into their portfolio evaluation criteria, healthy building features increase the value of the building based on greater input potential. The return on investment from healthy building continues to drive its adoption.
This month, a year after GRESB launched the first Health and Well-being Module for the real estate industry and in response to continued owner demand, the International WELL Building Institute announced WELL Portfolio – a streamlined certification pathway focused on policies, programs, procurement guidelines, and plans that can be applied across multiple existing buildings. A response to owners and operators across the globe, WELL Portfolio is a cost-efficient pathway rewarding owner and operator commitment to ongoing enhancements to existing buildings.
We’re excited about the opportunity to support the global real estate industry in its embrace of healthier people through better buildings. While the economics are obvious, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the outcomes are measured in terms of improving the health and wellness of our families and friends, neighbors and colleagues. And the return on these impacts are priceless.
This article is written by Rachel Gutter, International WELL Building Institute.