Why buildings of the future need a wellness rating

Harry Fenner

May 4, 2021

   Harry Fenner is CEO of Navana Property Group

Of the many and varied consequences for the property industry which the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about, one of the most positive and fascinating is the sharp refocusing on ‘healthy’ buildings.

Whilst we have become well-used to building regulations and ISO standards for construction, which govern everything tangible from materials to cladding and fire risk, there is an increasing appetite from investors and owners for buildings to adopt more holistic measures which improve environmental elements like hygiene, light and noise.

Wellness ratings for buildings are not new. The WELL standard launched in the United States in 2013, aimed at marrying design with evidence-based medical and scientific research. At that point it was very much driven by sustainability. Other ratings were since developed such as BREEAM, SKA and LEED which demonstrated a growing awareness of sustainability standards, considered through climate resilience and energy efficiency.

The trend towards rating buildings according to their healthiness has definitely garnered increased interest following the pandemic. However, wellness accreditation is now focused as much on the wellbeing of residents, occupiers and visitors as well as the eco-credentials of the building.

The relatively new IMMUNE certification is the first, open-source global standard to verify a building’s ability to withstand present and future health challenges.

Inspired by technologies successfully implemented by hospitals and ‘clean rooms’, the IMMUNE standard was recently adopted by the new Mace HQ at 155 Moorgate, London.

The highest level of IMMUNE rating is only given to buildings which meet stringent requirements for hygiene, sanitisation, air quality, water quality, lighting, hands free access, safe delivery procedures, social distancing measures and noise control.

Although it was first developed for commercial buildings, we are now seeing the rating adapted for use in residential, hospitality and retail buildings by the most forward-thinking developers.

We spend 90 per cent of our time inside buildings and designs like this will prove key as we reimagine a post COVID-19 era. It is necessary to design and engineer indoor spaces as productive and safe environments, with the capacity mitigate the spread of viruses. Developers must now consider the ‘biome’ of their buildings, to ensure positive living and working environments.

We will see the increasing consideration of measures such walls covered with antimicrobial paint, proven to prevent bacteria as well as mould and mildew growth.

Smart building technologies such as hands-free virtual doors will offer a safe and socially distanced solution, ideal for high-rise buildings where communal touch-points are considered a key risk area.

There will be widespread adoption of improved lighting, acoustics, biophilic design and air quality.

As we are adjusting to life with, and in the future, hopefully after COVID-19, I believe it is increasingly vital for developers and building managers to encourage these wellness innovations and ratings to further drive the built environment’s collective commitment to promote healthier people and a healthier planet.

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