Building Operations Supports Human Health And Wellness

What managers need to know about the WELL Standard and its impact on the facility

Facilities focused on sustainability have long considered the impact of materials selection on the health of building occupants. This has been demonstrated by the growth in green cleaning programs. It is also seen in recent developments driven by market forces, such as insulation no longer being made with formaldehyde, or Kaiser Permanente banning the use of antimicrobial additives in its furnishings and coatings in 2015.

Limiting toxic exposures remains a key tactic for ensuring the health and wellness of building occupants, but the conversation among building owners and facility managers regarding human health impacts is becoming more direct and comprehensive. Instead of merely trying to avoid making occupants sick, the current thinking is that buildings should also be designed and operated in a way that actively supports human health and wellness.

But why should a cleaning manager in a school, hospital or public facility care about wellness? Because the idea of “healthier buildings” is growing, and tools and guidelines are increasingly available to support it. Managers should know what’s included in this focus on employee wellness, and where they may be asked to participate.

“The value proposition on the commercial side for healthier buildings is an outgrowth of the sustainability space, particularly with LEED as a driver for that over the last decade,” says Fernando Arias, director of strategic initiatives at the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system. This process is aimed at reducing energy and water use, promoting better indoor air quality and improving occupant quality of life. ASID, along with partner organizations, has created a program of Health + Wellness Protocols to help inform decisions affecting occupant wellness. The initiative started as a 2014 Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action.
Currently, the design and standards community is working to define what wellness means and how to best achieve it through building design and operations strategies. A lot of careful effort is also being made to scientifically prove that the strategies put forth will have reliable effects. While there has long been research and niche interest in the subject, what has arisen are evidenced-based systems with codified strategies for facility cleaning managers to follow.

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Cleaning Standards That Focus On Wellness