Published 3 years ago.
About a 7 minute read.
Image: International WELL Building Institute/Facebook
/ This article is sponsored by
We spend 90% of our time indoors, and that was before a global pandemic forced many of us to turn our living environments into our offices, schools and gyms. So, what is the key to creating nurturing indoor habitats?
We spend 90 percent of our time
— 70 percent of that at home — and that was before a global pandemic forced many
of us to turn our living environments into temporary offices, schools, and gyms.
Our physical environments — the spaces where we live, work, and play — and our
personal behaviors together can be more influential to our wellbeing than our
COVID-19 has had
wide-ranging impacts on the building industry — including shelter-in-place
orders, remote work, supply chain shortages and disruptions and loss of sales.
But the long-term impacts of all this on building design and product development
remains to be seen since we are far from done with this pandemic.
So what is the key to creating nurturing indoor habitats? In a recent
— with Christina Raab, VP of Strategy and Development for the Cradle to
Cradle Products Innovation Institute; and
Shalini Ramesh, Director of the Commercial Team at the International WELL
Building Institute™ (IWBI) — we addressed
some of these health and wellness topics; and discussed how two global
frameworks can help shape and influence our indoor habitats, and the relevance
of their work as we deal with the challenges of an ongoing global pandemic.
Existing green building programs, originally conceived to address the
environmental and economic costs of constructing buildings, have increased their
focus on the health and wellness of building occupants. New building standards
have also emerged across the commercial, residential and affordable housing
sectors with a central focus on the occupant. Backed by science and research,
they are demonstrating that optimizing spaces for occupant wellbeing has
bottom-line impacts on employee productivity and retention, and can help attract
new talent. And healthy home
can support wellness for both individual homeowners and tenants, and the broader
communities in which they reside.
COVID-19 has dramatically upended our lives and our norms — but what will its
long-term impacts be for our indoor habitats? How much of our newfound focus and
appreciation for health and safety in our indoor spaces will become part of our
How do we ensure our quest for clean spaces and work surfaces doesn’t result in
using product ingredients that could negatively impact people and the planet?
Here, we summarize remarks shared by Ramesh and Raab during the webinar.
The IWBI is leading the global movement to transform buildings and communities
in ways that help people thrive. IWBI developed the WELL Building
Standard™: a global rating system that
was the first to be focused exclusively on the ways that buildings — and
everything in them — can improve our comfort, drive better choices; and
generally enhance, not compromise, our health and wellness.
Launched in October 2014 after six years of research and development, WELL is a
global standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to
implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health
and wellness. It asks the question: How can real estate be a vehicle for
wellness? The WELL Building Standard is not just about design or operations. It
is a holistic approach to achieving health and wellness in the indoor
environment — one-third of the standard encompasses HR policies, one-third
focuses on operations and one-third on design and construction.
The Standard was developed by integrating scientific and medical research and
literature on environmental health, behavioral factors, health outcomes and
demographic risk factors that affect health with leading practices in building
design, construction and management. It is an actionable framework that is
helpful in responding to COVID-19 and preparing for a safer, healthier future —
by focusing on specific areas that help people thrive in building operations and
design, as well as policies and culture. In support of the fight against
COVID-19, in March 2020 IWBI created a task force of nearly 600 public health
experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders,
architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals. The
task force examined the WELL Building Standard through the lens of prevention,
preparedness, resilience and recovery to identify and group select strategies
from WELL v2 around key themes in relation to COVID-19.
In June 2020, the IWBI launched the WELL Health-Safety Rating — an
evidence-based, third-party-verified rating focused on operational policies,
maintenance protocols and emergency plans to address a post-COVID-19
environment. The rating primarily focuses on policies and operations — including
air-quality measures such as how often you change filters — and is applicable
across any kind of facility type. To communicate to building occupants that a
building is safe, IWBI created the WELL Health-Safety seal, a visual mark to
indicate the work that an organization has done to take the necessary measures
and support the health of individuals.
The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a global nonprofit founded
10 years ago — with the promise of a world where safe materials and products are
designed and manufactured in a prosperous, circular economy to maximize the
health and wellbeing of people and planet.
Materials are ubiquitous and the fabric of our built environment — from
to interior items such as
and furniture. With the selection of safer materials, architects and project
teams have the ability to reduce human exposures to toxic chemicals and make
communities healthier. And that is even more important during the coronavirus
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a globally recognized measure of safer, more
sustainable products made for the circular economy; and the Cradle to Cradle
Certified Products Program sets the global standard for products that are safe,
circular and made responsibly. The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard
requires the assessment of products across five categories: material
material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and
Circularity starts with selecting safe materials to protect human health and the
environment, and to ensure the quality of materials available for future use and
cycling. Products using these safe ingredients are then intentionally designed
for their next use and are actively cycled in their intended cycling pathway(s).
These products are manufactured using responsible practices that protect clean
air and climate, safeguard water and soil resources, and advance social fairness
to maximize their positive impacts and contributions to a thriving circular
To earn certification for a product, companies work with an independent,
third-party assessor to determine a product's achievement level. In order to
renew certification, which is required every two years, a company has to
demonstrate efforts to improve a product’s performance. This encourages and
rewards continuous and measurable improvement over time.
Encouraging healthy spaces using safe building materials and products is a
four-step pathway in the Cradle to Cradle framework: inventory (what’s in it),
screening (what’s not in it), assessment (compatibility with human and
environmental health) and optimization (how it can be made safer).
Building programs such as LEED, BREEAM and WELL are also a driver; as
they shift toward a focus on occupant/human health but also circularity. The
pandemic has reminded us all about the need for coordinated action to address
immediate global challenges in public health.
As public health and risk management rise to the top of the agenda, there is an
unprecedented opportunity to ensure that health resiliency and sustainability
become embedded into existing building infrastructure and interiors. We believe
that safe materials and products are a practical silver bullet for accelerating
the availability of healthy buildings and spaces.
At Shaw, perhaps our
biggest contribution has been to try to help customers navigate complexity and
confusion in these unprecedented times we’re working in. On the commercial side
of our business, we have created continuing-education courses about creating
healthy spaces, and engaging in in-depth conversations about cleaning and
antimicrobials. On the retailer front, we’ve developed a playbook to help them
best operate amid stay-at-home orders and how they can adapt their businesses to
meet market needs of ensuring safe, stress-free shopping experiences.
We have also just launched an initiative for residential customers and consumers
that we call Made Smarter. Live Better. It’s
meant to inform consumers and purchasers of our products about healthy home
trends, how our products align with those trends, and ultimately to help them
make more informed purchase decisions based upon what attributes matter most to
them — such as material health, indoor air quality, moisture, acoustics and
cleanability. Shaw has long used these principles and our 20-year commitment to
Cradle to Cradle design philosophies to drive our internal product development
processes. This latest effort aims to help consumers more easily align their
flooring purchase decisions with healthy home principles.
To hear the full conversation, including our audience Q&A, listen to the
Published Oct 16, 2020 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Troy Virgo is director of sustainability for global flooring manufacturer and supplier Shaw Industries Inc., headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, USA. Troy helps drive sustainability efforts across Shaw, with an emphasis on material chemistry and the creation of safe and healthy products. Troy also leads Shaw’s external engagements and partnerships on key sustainability topics in the residential retail, single family, and multifamily business channels.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.