WELL Buildings: The Business Case

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Investment in the invisible environment is often difficult to sell. Features such as chairs, tables and lighting are all tangible. You can see good design, so explaining the benefits and justifying the expense is a straightforward process.

But the invisible environment – the air we breathe, the humidity, the temperature control – is less tangible. We instinctively know a better indoor environment will lead to better results, yet many people fail to factor it in to the design stages of a building.

President John F. Kennedy’s renowned quote about comfortable inaction was not intended as a message for business owners, but its relevance is clear. Yes, there are risks involved in investing in your people and the workplace, but the cost of doing nothing to improve the daily experience may be far greater.

A Holistic Approach

In this series of articles, we’ve been exploring the features and benefits of a holistic approach to building design. Whether you intend to pursue a certification such as the WELL Building standard, or simply want to incorporate elements of it to improve aspects of your workspace, securing buy-in is often a crucial first step.

We believe there are three key areas of potential focus when it comes to making a business case:

Attracting staff

Employees are thinking differently, and they expect more from their workplaces. To attract the best staff, companies need to have something to offer, and a space that contributes to the health of its occupants can set them apart.

Better indoor air quality, lighting, thermal comfort and a commitment to staff wellbeing can help reduce headaches, eye strain, breathing disorders and stress. The most talented candidates are aware of this, and are assessing potential workplaces.

Environmental responsibility

Sustainability goes hand in hand with building standards such as BREEAM and WELL. Companies need to consider their impact on the environment more than ever. Along with this responsibility, of course, comes the fact that a more sustainable building costs less to run.

One WELL-certified fit-out in an existing building in the US reduced energy expenditure by more than 12%.

Improving productivity

A recent World Green Building Council report identified a clear link between better building design and healthier, more productive occupants. Staff account for 90% of the operating costs of a business, so even a marginal improvement can make a significant difference.

According to the report, better air quality alone can increase productivity by between 8% and 11%. Achieving WELL certification at Cundall’s London office increased the cost of the project by 3.6%, but it has been credited with the average employee taking four fewer sick days per year, and a 27% reduction in staff turnover.

Marginal Gains

Even in cases where a full certification is not the aim, the potential benefits of improving air quality, thermal comfort and other factors as part of a holistic approach to building design cannot be ignored.

A two-year study by facilities management firm EMCOR UK found high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can be particularly damaging to worker accuracy and efficiency. Employees in spaces with lower CO2 levels scored 12% higher on numerical and proofreading tests, and in one building they worked 60% faster.

Investing in the invisible environment may be considered a risk, but with a better understanding of the role it plays in the workplace, the business case for taking steps to improve it is clear to see.

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