KSN Horizon Employee Insights: Raphaëlle Boutin – WELL Certification

KSN Horizon Employee Insights: Raphaëlle Boutin – WELL Certification

As today marks World Health Day, we decided to look at the importance of health and wellbeing in the built environment.

We spend about 90% of our time indoors, which means that our indoor environment plays a crucial role in our general health. In the office, our productivity and overall happiness depend largely on building design and wellness support.

This aspect of corporate sustainability not only improves the working conditions of employees but also benefits a companies’ bottom line. For example, organisations that improved the health and wellbeing of their buildings reported a 19% decrease in absenteeism, a 25% increase in employee retention, and a 47% increase in their employee engagement.

“Healthy buildings are not expensive but
sick people are” – Professor John Macomber, Harvard University

It’s worth noting that healthier buildings also receive a rent premium. In a recent study of American cities, healthier buildings received around 6% more rent per sq foot. From a business point of view, investing in health and wellbeing during the building design and operations can benefit various stakeholders in numerous ways.

As part of World Health Day, Odhran Cussen, Sustainability Researcher with KSN Horizon, sat down with Raphaelle Boutin, KSN Horizon Sustainability Program Manager to discuss her WELL certification experience and the importance of health and wellbeing for building occupants.

Raphaelle, what exactly is WELL, and what actions did you take as part of the WELL assessment?

WELL is an American building certification that applies to both commercial and residential buildings. It is organized around nine key concepts: water and air quality, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, community, and mind. Buildings are assigned a score of Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum, with Bronze being the lowest and Platinum being the highest. WELL’s primary goal is to improve the health and well-being of building occupants.

I worked as a WELL Accredited Professional in France, advising clients on the best strategy to pursue WELL certification during the building development phase. When I was working with clients, I was responsible for creating documentation and gathering evidence for the implementation of WELL features throughout the building. I also spent some time on the WELL platform, where I submitted the final report and provided feedback to the client.

Did you find this aspect of your work rewarding?

WELL is quite unique in that it takes into account both the physical and mental health of building occupants. It was reassuring to know that some companies are willing to invest in healthier working environments by introducing things like mental health screening and internal policies around grievances and quality sleep at a time when mental health awareness is so important.

I found the engagement process to be very interesting as well. As part of my job, I conducted satisfaction surveys and worked with building occupants to learn what they thought about their new structure and how it performed. It was fascinating to analyze this data and see how the building could still be improved from the perspective of the occupants.

Can you tell us how WELL works Raphaelle?

To receive certification, buildings must implement all pre-conditions in each concept, such as air filtration, fundamental water quality, a ban on some processed foods, visual lighting design, and activity incentive programs.

They can also introduce optional, more technical, and focused technologies, practices, and facilities. Outdoor air systems, water treatment facilities, responsible food production, shading, and dimming controls, and physical activity spaces are all examples of this. Buildings that incorporate more optional technologies, of course, tend to receive higher ratings. Simply put, the score you receive represents the amount of time and money invested in improving your building’s health and wellbeing performance.

What did you notice the most while conducting WELL assessments?

The majority of my clients assumed that WELL certification was similar to BREEAM or LEED, but it is not. BREEAM and LEED are not solely concerned with health and well-being; instead, they assess building performance in areas such as greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency. Despite some similarities, WELL certification is a comprehensive approach to occupant health and well-being.

WELL is also relatively new to the market, particularly in Europe.  As a result, some businesses are hesitant to build and maintain their buildings in accordance with WELL standards. Building owners who are hesitant to pursue certification can simply follow the WELL framework and implement some pre-conditions. This will still increase the value of their asset and improve tenant satisfaction without requiring them to go through the entire certification process.

For more information on introducing or improving health and wellbeing features in your building, contact info@ksnhorizon.com.