More companies are adhering to green building standards when constructing and renovating offices, factories, warehouses and distribution centers. Achieving the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is considered by architects, developers, builders and facilities managers to be the gold standard in creating sustainable, healthy, efficient and cost-effective structures.

Green buildings are designed to be energy efficient with a low carbon footprint, but they do not automatically create beneficial environments for their residents. Careful consideration must be given to the building’s interior environmental attributes, such as lighting, air circulation and water supply, to achieve a setting that enhances the health and well-being of its occupants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors.[1] Corporate executives from several disciplines such as human resources, information technology, marketing, public relations, risk management and legal now are advocating for the pursuit of the WELL Building Standard to demonstrate their companies’ commitment to improving health and wellness in the interiors of their buildings.

WELL is a performance-based standard used to ensure the measurement, certification and monitoring of seven features in the built environment impacting human health and well-being. WELL sets performance standards for building environments that aim to improve air, water, light, nutrition, fitness, comfort and psychological well-being.[2]

This effort is not simply a public relations ploy. Researchers have found that unhealthy workplaces can result in lower productivity and higher rates of illness, chronic disease, stress, absenteeism, depression and lack of motivation, as well as increases in health care costs.[3]

Indoor air quality is particularly important for individuals who struggle with asthma, chronic respiratory ailments and cardiovascular disease. Workers who sit at their jobs all day tend to be at higher risk for obesity and chronic disease. Both LEED and WELL certifications support healthy environments that can help alleviate these problems and provide employees with an encouraging workspace.

A core benefit of achieving LEED and WELL certifications is the demonstration of a company’s values and commitment to its employees’ health and well-being. This approach has proven beneficial in attracting and retaining millennial employees who seek jobs with companies that are committed to social values and purpose. Healthy work environments and green building certification can signal social or environmental awareness to current employees and job candidates and indicate a company’s commitment to a sustainable future for its people.

[1] “EPA’s Report on the Environment: Indoor Air Quality,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2017. Available at: https://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/chapter/air/indoorair.cfm

[2] “What is WELL?” definition of WELL in blog post by Nora Knox, U.S. Green Building Council, April 2, 2015. Available at: https://www.usgbc.org/articles/what-well

[3] “Healthy workplaces produce employees who work smarter – and longer,” by Tanya Ha, The Guardian blog, Jan. 20, 2016. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jan/21/healthy-workplaces-produce-employees-who-work-smarter-and-longer

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