News Careers Contact

Why I Love the WELL Building Rating System – It Builds Healthy Habits

Share on Social

Change is hard; we all want to do it, but without a plan and support it is hard to follow-through and make that change happen. Many of us, myself included, start each year with resolutions or goals for the upcoming year and it is easy at first, but then as we get into the year and the excitement wears off, it is hard to stick to it. This applies to designing new buildings as well. It is exciting to sit down with an owner and brainstorm all the ways we can make the building design more sustainable or support the well-being of the occupants, but the challenge is how to do it in a meaningful way that supports real change that leads to healthy habits. I love the WELL Building standard because it has been designed to incorporate that needed “support” into the rating system by including healthy policies to enhance design features. 

Most of us want to eat healthy foods but it is not always the convenient option and nutrition information is not always readily available. I try to eat healthy and having nutrition information along with easy access to fruit and vegetable options helps me stay on track eating a well-balanced meal so that when I reach for a treat I feel good about the other choices I made throughout the day. This is just one of many things WELL got right; instead of prescribing exact requirements for what you can and can’t eat which can feel like you are being forced to be on a diet, WELL takes the approach of promoting transparency of ingredients and encourages strategic placement of whole foods over processed ones with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables and education of how foods work as fuel for your body. I heard this described once as “foods that your grandparents or great-grandparents would be able to recognize.” 

The WELLographies are documents containing in-depth research and background information on each of the 7 concepts, the Nourishment Wellography outlines some Strategic Dining Design suggestions to encourage cafeteria patrons to select the healthier option:

  • Create a healthy convenience checkout line
  • Fresh fruit placed by the cash register
  • Salads packaged in see through containers
  • Descriptive and enticing names for vegetable dishes
  • Displaying fresh fruits in bowls and tiered stands to make them more appealing
  • A menu with appealing, color photos of the fruits and vegetables served
  • Placing salad bar away from the wall with 360-degree access
  • Nutrition information by the food – good source of Vitamin A, calcium, iron, etc.

The second major part of the Nourishment concept focuses on how we eat rather than what is being eaten, this is called Mindful eating. Mindful eating is defined as focusing on eating without being distracted. By taking the time to enjoy your food, clear your mind, have a conversation with a colleague, and hopefully take in some views from nature and or get some fresh air.

By incorporating WELL building strategies into building design, such as arranging the cafeteria to more prominently display fruits and vegetables in buffet lines or next to the checkout makes it easier to make a healthy and informed choice.

Similar to eating healthy foods – fitness and nutrition is something that many of us want to incorporate into our daily lives but many barriers get in the way. WELL features are designed to make fitness throughout the day more attainable. WELL goes beyond simply providing a gym and locker room space, it integrates fitness classes and education with ways to incorporate movement naturally into daily life. A stairway viewed purely as an emergency exit can be so much more: an inviting space with natural light, art, and flooring and wall finishes at the same level as lobbies and gathering spaces in the building. Visually connecting stairs with adjacent spaces improves ease of access and when designed to be inviting, more people will use them infusing extra activity throughout the day. WELL also looks at opportunities for movement at one’s desk by having adjustable workstations to vary position and stand-up for intervals throughout the day.

When I am working on a WELL project I feel like I can make a difference for the people who use the space. Recently achieving my certification in WELL provides me the framework to pair design ideas with clients’ goals philosophies bringing design and policy together to support healthy habits for the people who spend time in the building. Incorporating WELL features that encourage eating healthy and being active can make changes transform into a lifestyle choice that’s easier to stick with, keeping those resolutions going strong all year long.

WELL Building Expert Contributor