International standards help generate well-being

By Arturo Saenz, CEO de Synchro Projects and Solutions

The time has come when designers, developers, administrators and the general public have to ask ourselves if being indoors in our homes, Offices, commercial premises and institutions compromise our health. The least we hope is that these places do not cause us any disease and the best thing would be for them to generate health and well-being..

And it is in this argument where the international standard "WELL Building Standard" shows us a frame of reference like no other. Break down the definition of wellness into its ten important parts: air, Water, light, nutrition, mobility, sound, materials, thermal sensation, mental health and community. It helps to understand how pollutants, pathogens, materials selection, or bad construction or operating practices can affect our physical and mental health to the point of producing chronic diseases. Already COVID-19 is showing us the importance of thinking and worrying about the first point of ten: the air.

The "WELL Building Standard" is managed and administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of human beings through built environments. This standard, what came out in the year 2014, was the result of 7 years of studies carried out by a large group of engineers, architects, doctors and scientists of various branches who have made a commitment to continually investigate, collect and implement design and construction best practices that align with disease prevention and health promotion.

El International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) joined forces with the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the same organization that manages the LEED certification process, to provide a third-party verified certification. It is applicable for buildings, Offices, institutions, schools, communities, residential buildings and kitchens, among others. Among the companies that have opted for any of the certifications in their facilities are the Empire State Realty Trust, the New York Yankees, JP Morgan, Cleveland Clinic and many others.

From its beginnings until today, the standard has been adopted in more than 67 countries in the world and already has more than 390 certified projects and 5,500 projects in the certification process that represent around 76 million square meters. WELL also certifies people who have acquired the knowledge to manage the standard and apply its good practices.. These people are known as the WELL APs and are certified by passing an exam also administered by the Green Business Certification Inc. To the date, there are already more than 7,000 WELL AP in the world.

In Panama, This standard is beginning to be introduced and good practices are being implemented in some corporate offices and the certification process is taking place in others. For offices, the welfare argument is very clear: healthy and happy workers means healthy and profitable businesses. Issues such as absenteeism, low productivity, stress, the increase in the insurance premium and the perception of the organizational culture have a higher cost when compared to the cost of implementing healthy adjustments. Additional, and now with the consequences of the pandemic, employees will demand to be and work in environments that guarantee "at least" that it does not harm them. Under this same argument, it would be necessary to add to other facilities such as schools, public institutions or other commercial premises.

The reaction of the authorities and some unions to the rapid and unexpected pandemic was understandable. Recommendations and protocols were listed demanding their compliance. But nevertheless, many of these have opportunities to review and complement them with new information that has emerged and will continue to emerge from studies focused on the development and construction of safe environments. It is precisely at this point that the knowledge and revision of international standards such as the WELL is important. Its validation by many technical guilds around the world makes it the frame of reference for many wellness topics.

In the residential real estate sector in Panama, several are the projects that in the last 10 years have developed gestures aligned to promote the physical and mental health of their future buyers. Here the new opportunities are many and the market that will demand attributes of well-being in their homes continues to grow according to national and international market studies.

More than 25 years of experience in the real estate sector and with a team certified in various international standards, our company Synchro Projects and Solutions offers advice to adapt existing environments or develop new projects to protect and improve our health.