Pursuit of A Healthier Campus with WELL Building Certification

07.13.2018

Stephanie Clemons, Ph.D., FIDEC, FASID, Colorado State University
Susan MacMurchy, Consultant to Delos

WELL Building Certification delivers interventions that are recognized for improving interior health in corporate offices, hospitality, healthcare, senior housing and multi -family residential design.

It is no surprise that universities are exploring incorporation of WELL for both existing and new construction projects. Their desire for healthier employee work spaces and better learning places for their students, includes the value add of improved student focus and performance, fewer overall sick days, and a more engaged campus.

Universities Today

Universities are grappling with many challenges, which range from student success issues such as persistence, retention, and graduation rates to civility, freedom of speech, and “sanctuary campus” movements (AAUP, 2018; Allaire, 2018; Forbes, 2017).

Another challenge relates to the built environment. Hundreds of millions are being spent on capital improvements (Bierschbach, 2018) and new construction that demand additional dollars. The competition for WELL funding is fierce. Yet what good is it to build buildings for students without supporting their increased need for mental, emotional and physical health?

And so, administrators understanding salary expenditures and monies spent on employee health programs, insurance premiums, and sick days realize each decision impacts tens of thousands of students, faculty and community members on an annual basis.

As remodeling and new construction efforts continue to escalate, building to the WELL Standard may address several current campus issues.

Building to Meet University Needs

Research indicates that incoming students prioritize a healthy lifestyle and seek a campus, which supports their daily wellness practice. Choice of a healthy living environment is becoming more of a common conversation during the recruitment process.

Record numbers of enrolled college students are seeking treatment for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Time, 2018). As clinics are added and personnel is hired, consideration is being given to the healthy interiors in which students will learn and live. 

WELL Building Certification Advantages

  • Don’t simply learn it, live it.  Offer 360-degree immersive health and well-being learning. Being in a WELL Certified space makes the healthy choice the easy choice.
  • Build a culture of health to enhance recruitment and retention efforts.
  • Differentiate. Make a statement about campus and community
  • Improve health, wellness, and well-being of employees
  • Lead the way on cutting-edge health-related research
  • Increase dollars and productivity
    • Collaborative work increases 9%
    • Productivity increases 16%, yielding an estimated increase of $694,000 financial impact to a bottom line during first year (ASID, 2018)
  • Reduce common sources of distraction such as noise, providing balanced air quality, and implementing lighting designed to enhance productivity.

Enhancements of WELL v2 are aimed at making WELL Building Certification more flexible, inclusive and optimized for all types of projects. Rigor is maintained while streamlining process for all types of projects.

WELL Building Certification Standard + Colorado State University

This year Colorado State University (CSU) will complete a series of 12 new construction projects including the on-campus stadium, medical center, residence halls, and equine teaching hospital. CSU is also in the midst of several capital improvement projects.

Building on its leadership in the field of sustainability (e.g. STARS ratings; Greenest University (AASHE), CSU has increased interest in holistically embracing wellness via WELL Certification. Discussions began with Delos and International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). Representatives met with CSU constituents and gathered metrics. Meetings were held with the provost, vice presidents, facilities, human resource personnel and residence hall directors. Student and professional designer workshops were given. Comments made indicated that working toward WELL Building certification “just makes sense.”

CSU’s newest structure, The Richardson Design Center, will open spring 2019. There is intent to register for WELL Certification after completion. A substantial lead gift from Nancy and Curt Richardson, co-founders of OtterBox, Inc. has helped to establish this iconic interdisciplinary design center. CSU’s Interior Architecture and Design Program will be housed in this building, which will (once certified) allow design students to learn within the WELL environment.

Final Thoughts

The two critical issues in incorporating WELL into today’s campuses seem to be alignment with strategic plan priorities and funding to support the implementation.

However, as Paul Scialla, Founder of Delos and IWBI says, “At the end of the day it’s all about the people.” 

Yesterday’s venerable university buildings, without people are simply shells. Today’s universities must consider hearts, minds, and bodies.  Tomorrow’s university must be about building in immersive, holistic, preventative systems to enhance and protect; to improve health and wellbeing.

And while the initial learning matrix may take a bit of time to master, what could be a better use of time and funds than saying and meaning “We take care of our people”?

References