Building standards often consider the performance of a building, including energy efficiency, water consumption and material usage. But what about the occupants? An environmentally friendly, well-built building provides no guarantees that their needs will be considered, even when certified in most cases. Unless it has a WELL Building Standard certification, that is, which considers thermal comfort, air and water quality, as well as acoustics.
The WELL Building Standard, launched in 2014 by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), certifies buildings based on their impact on human health and wellbeing. Due to the demand for better working conditions, the certification has already gained significant recognition in the construction industry, with thousands of projects around the world now certified.
The certification focuses on how a building and its furnishings can positively contribute to occupants’ health and wellbeing by evaluating the building according to the following themes: air, water, nutrition, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, spirit and community. These concepts contain 108 characteristics related to design, culture, policy and maintenance, all of which aim to support our physical and mental health.
How does WELL contribute to better sound environments?
Sound and acoustic comfort is an essential aspect of the WELL standard. Noise is a major source of stress and discomfort, especially in shared spaces such as offices, classrooms and hospitals. Studies have shown that excessive noise can increase stress levels, lower productivity and even lead to health problems such as hearing loss and cardiovascular disease.
WELL certification evaluates various elements of the sound environment, including sound level measurements, speech privacy, noise reduction and soundscapes. All of these factors help to create an environment conducive to wellbeing in various ways.
By taking sound level measurements, excessive noise nuisance can be prevented, and a comfortable noise level can be created and maintained indoors. Voice privacy requirements allow people to have a private conversation. Smart design strategies, such as the use of sound-absorbing materials and the placement of sound masking away from quiet areas, can reduce distractions and create comfortable environments in a building.
Finally, creating pleasant soundscapes is stimulated, for example by using natural sounds that promote relaxation or concentration. The obvious result is a healthy sound environment that can help reduce stress, increase concentration and improve cognitive performance.
The WELL Building Standard helps to approach the design and construction of buildings differently. WELL certified buildings often have a lower environmental impact due to the incentive of sustainable materials, but above all it is a powerful tool in designing spaces that promote a healthier and more productive indoor climate, that support positive mental and emotional well-being leading to happy and healthy users of a building. From improved air quality and acoustics to the incorporation of biophilic design elements, the WELL Building Standard is transforming the way we think about buildings, and ultimately our own wellbeing.
Text: Bianca Scherpenhuyzen, Local Concept Developer – Ecophon Netherlands