Beneath the news of the COVID-19 pandemic, a different type of sickness was rampaging through homes across the world. That sickness is known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), and while the symptoms aren’t nearly as bad as COVID-19’s, they were enough to grab people’s attention, and hold it. Proper ventilation, lighting, open spaces, and all the other hallmarks of a healthy building that were once considered luxuries are now being seen as mandatory, with health and wellness certifications being viewed as the holy grail.
A series of reports published by the World Green Building Council in 2014 and 2016 take a better look at the links between sustainable workplace design and employee health, wellbeing and productivity. On the productivity side, we that improvements to select areas see a certain improvement in productivity:
- Individual temperature control: +3%
- Improved ventilation: +11%
- Better lighting: +23%
- Access to natural environment: +18%
So what’s the 3-30-300 number then? According to GreenMoney, that’s the ratio of expenditures companies often plan on paying for utilities, rent and employee payroll per square foot per year. A company spending $30 a year to rent a square foot of space can expect to spend $3 in utilities and $300 in employee paychecks for that same amount of space over that same amount of time.
A 10% drop in utilities would net about 30 cents, but a 10% increase in employee production would net $30.
WELL and Fitwel Building Certifications
LEED and BREEAM for a while as environmental certifications, but newcomers WELL and Fitwel add a new flavor to the mix. Compatible with LEED and BREEAM, these new certification focus more heavily on health and wellness for building occupants with requirements such as active workstations, low VOC materials and nearby access to food, among a multitude of other requirements.
Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, the WELL certification is perhaps the youngest of the bunch. However, that didn’t stop it from exploding in adoption amongst building owners over the course of just nine months, with over one billion square feet of space being enrolled to be rated. The rapid adoption highlights just how important companies see creating healthier spaces to be.
The Companies at the Forefront
When companies build healthier buildings, everyone wins. The demand for safer, greener and healthier buildings has many real-estate companies clamoring to achieve these certifications across their entire portfolio in the hopes of attracting tenants, and with that competition comes leadership and innovation. As reported by GreenMoney, the current leaders include:
- Empire State Realty is the first commercial portfolio in the US to achieve the WELL Health-Safety rating across its entire portfolio (which includes the Empire State Building). They have also Fitwel certified 6 of their NYC properties to date.
- Kilroy Realty have more Fitwel certified projects than any other firm in the world, totaling over 43% of their portfolio. They also achieved the world’s first Well certification of a residential rental project, for Columbia Square in Hollywood, CA.
- Dream Office REITin Canada, has earned the WELL Health-Safety rating for 25 of its buildings, representing 87% of their gross leasable space.
- Australia’s Charter Hall Group was one of the first organizations in the world to achieve a WELL Portfolio Score by certifying properties across their organization.
- “Fitwel Champions” are companies using Fitwel at a portfolio scale. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) making the grade include Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Boston Properties, Vornado, and AvalonBay.