In my home country of New Zealand we expect easing of COVID-19 related restrictions with a move to Level 1 in a matter of days, meaning a return to the office for some. We spend about 90% of our time indoors (that’s 73 years for the average Kiwi), and our physical environment impacts our health more than our lifestyles, medical care received and genetics. Yet design standards to enhance our wellbeing indoors are almost non-existent.

This is where the WELL Building Standard (WELL) comes in. A global rating tool backed by years of scientific research, WELL focuses on how effective buildings and organisations are at supporting health and wellbeing. One unique aspect compared to green building rating tools such as Green Star, is that WELL certification relies on performance verification. This requires actual testing and visual inspections by an independent verifier of air quality, water quality, light levels and acoustic quality to name a few.

In response to COVID-19, the International WELL Building Standard (IWBI) launched the Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections. Chaired by renowned experts and populated by dozens of thought leaders and authorities from across public health, medicine, design, real estate, government and academia, the Task Force on COVID-19 is informing new Guidelines for Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery and enhancements to the WELL Building Standard itself. I’m proud to have been part of the taskforce in my capacity as NDY’s NZ Sustainability Lead.

Released two weeks ago, Strategies from the WELL Building Standard to Support in the Fight Against COVID-19 identifies strategies from WELL v2 that reflect how organisations can approach prevention, preparedness, resilience and recovery in relation to COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Focusing on not just design, but also operations and policies these strategies call out initiatives from enhanced air quality to supporting flexible work policies and employee mental health under eight key themes with all strategies backed by science. The eight key themes are:

  1. Promote clean contact
  2. Improve air quality
  3. Maintain water quality
  4. Manage risk and create organizational resilience
  5. Support movement and comfort, including work from home
  6. Strengthen immune systems
  7. Foster mental resilience
  8. Champion community resilience and recovery

The Task Force is actively working on more comprehensive guidelines and looking at how to expand and strengthen some of the strategies already in place within WELL v2. These detailed guidelines are due for release late 2020.

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Hayley Koerbin
Global Sustainability Leader
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