Excerpt from Building Dialogue, June 2015 edition.

Imagine Healthier Buildings

Imagine buildings that are designed to help you thrive, where the indoor environment is tuned to take care of your body and mind. Imagine human comfort being taken to the next level by designing buildings as complete sensory environments, with not only improved thermal comfort, but deliberate focus on lighting and visual quality, acoustic quality, olfactory quality and ergonomic quality.


Not only is this environment optimized around comfort, it also boasts air quality better than the outside air, and water quality better than any brand of imported bottled water. Further, materials with toxic chemicals and dangerous off-gassing are eliminated in the construction of the building, as well as in the cleaning and maintenance of the building.


Imagine a workplace that helps keep you fit through seemingly simple opportunities for physical movement throughout the day and where fresh, healthy food is more tempting and accessible than junk food from a vending machine or the fast food restaurant across the street. The quality of light and daylight throughout the cycle of the day supports our natural circadian rhythm, helping to maintain overall health and well-being.


The WELL Building Standard

Fortunately, this level of healthy building can soon become the new standard for design and construction. Just as LEED transformed the building industry around sustainable building practices, the newly launched WELL Building Standard will transform the industry around best practices and metrics for health and well-being of building occupants. The WELL Building Standard is a third-party rating system based on a series of required and optional well-being features in a range of categories including Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. Three levels of certification: Silver, Gold, and Platinum, can be achieved by both new construction/major renovations and tenant improvement projects.  Core and Shell projects can achieve WELL Compliance to aid future tenant improvements in achieving certification.


Worldwide, there are approximately 8 million square feet of space currently registered or certified under WELL, and its growing fast. In Colorado, the first WELL certified project is the LYFE Kitchen in Lone Tree. Colorado’s other registered projects include Sloan’s Lake Residential, being developed by NAVA Real Estate Development and Google’s Pearl Place Offices in Boulder, currently being designed by RNL and MKK Consulting Engineers.


The Cost and Benefits of WELL

Because WELL building addresses both physical and mental health, the impact is not only on lower health care costs, but also higher cognitive functioning and greater productivity. Since we spend 90% of our time indoors and the fact that people-related costs represent 90% of most businesses’ costs, there are deep economic benefits.


There have been several studies in the last decade by groups such as RMI, Johnson Controls and USGBC that have tied productivity gains from 5 to 16% for green buildings.  Buildings under the WELL Building Standard could see high ROIs, especially with the generally modest cost of implementing WELL. The fees associated with the certification process are typically around $100 per employee for offices. One of the first case studies for WELL Certified projects is CBRE’s Los Angeles office, which reports a cost premium of only 1.73% of the overall construction budget or an estimated $3.60 per square foot.


WELL Building can certainly be a great tool to attract tenants and employees in this healthy lifestyle focused state. Colorado building owners and businesses have a great opportunity in front them and can use WELL Building as a smart investment in people. Just as Colorado has been a national leader in green buildings, it is poised to play a leading role in this WELL Building Revolution.



TomHootmanTom Hootman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Provisional WELL AP

Tom is the Performance + Design Innovation Lead at MKK Consulting Engineers, where he brings his 20 years of high performance building experience to projects across geographies and markets. Holding degrees in both architecture and engineering, Tom is an effective design integrator and innovative problem solver. Tom’s approach involves early creative collaboration with the design team to develop, test and implement innovation sustainable design solutions that are cost effective, healthy, regenerative, beautiful and transformational.

Tom is one of the first WELL Accredited Professionals in the nation and is actively working on several WELL Building projects. He is combining his expertise for net zero and regenerative design with a passion for elevating the sensory experience and indoor environmental quality of buildings. For Tom, performance is providing the highest level of environmental quality, comfort and well-being with the smallest, or even regenerative environmental footprint.  [Say Hello to Tom]