From Well-washing To WELL Buildings

By Shannon Koberlein, 
WELL Faculty

While traveling recently, I happened upon a coffee shop called Well Coffeehouse. As I stood outside on the sidewalk, a familiar adage came to mind, “Wellness is the next trillion-dollar industry.”

I began to pay attention to all of the instances in which I saw the concept of ‘well’ utilized. I saw the term paired with words like ‘connection’ and ‘integrated,’ particularly as they pertained to physical health. I found evidence of the noun transformed into an ambiguous verb, ‘well-ify.’ Who doesn’t want to think they are actively in pursuit of wellness? I saw ads that used the term ‘wellness’ to sell goods and services; beauty products claiming to calm and detoxify. Major hotel chains identify their properties as wellness havens, places to relax and rejuvenate the mind and body. A simple online search turns up pages for businesses who assess and promote healthy “wellness” habits. 

Even microbreweries attempt to incorporate wellness into their marketing. I saw the term applied to dog food while shopping for my own pups, and like many, I was drawn to these products. I unintentionally value marketing that promises benefits to my own health and that of my family (dogs included). Just as the term ‘green’ comforts people about their consumption, the word ‘well’ has also begun to infiltrate our lives so that can perceive our choices as healthy. 

So what should I look for when evaluating products to buy or businesses to patronize? Easy! Since the definition of well-being is quite simply “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy,” I suggest that if the product you’re considering meets these simple criteria – go for it! The truth is most consumer decisions are not one-size fits all; the things I look for in a hotel experience or the things that I look for in a detoxifier may not be the same for you. And some products will always require good old fashioned research – remember the words of Sy Syms: “an educated consumer is our best customer.” When considering the attributes that are important to you, seeking out third-party verification that these attributes are present can ensure they are. For instance, a product that is certified organic is different than a product that simply uses the word ‘organic’ as a descriptor. 

When the wellness lens is applied to the design, construction, and operation of buildings, a comprehensive certification is now available which can serve as a resource. Launched in October 2014, the WELL Building Standard offers evidence-based, third party verification for measuring wellness aspects of the built environment and is organized around seven concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. The rating system was developed with physicians, scientists, and industry professionals dedicated to the well-being of the people who live, work, and learn in buildings. What better place to start your wellness journey than with the buildings you interact with every day?

To learn more about the WELL Building Standard at www.wellcertified.com. Locally, USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter offers WELL AP Exam Prep Courses. Learn more at www.usgbc-mogateway.org or 314-577-0854.