Vision for Healthy Communities Built Through Industry Partnership

by Rose Winer
Dec 6, 2017 9:25 AM ET

IWBI | Articles

The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI) has pioneered the field of human health certification for indoor spaces, and we recognize it is essential that our broader environments also contribute to and support these same standards of well-being. That’s why this September we released the WELL Community Standard™, a new standard for the certification of healthy communities that aims to elevate human wellness to the forefront of community building and design practices, and deliver cutting-edge health interventions at the district scale. Crucial to the development of the WELL Community Standard were our working group members, including premier practitioners in building design and public health, who provided valuable insights and expertise to shape and refine the new standard. To Susana Saiz, Sustainability and Energy Associate at working group member Arup--one of the world’s foremost engineering firms--this new focus on communities was an obvious next step for the healthy building movement:

“Community design is key for achieving individual happiness and wellbeing. Working at the building level is crucial, but achieving the overall well-being goals becomes a big challenge if the community where the building is located is not addressing environmental, social and economic issues.”

In the same way the WELL Building Standard leverages building interiors to support human well-being, the WELL Community Standard aims to ensure that communities positively impact individuals beyond the scale of buildings - throughout the public spaces where they spend much of their time. Tim McCarthy, working group member and Managing Principal at leading architectural firm Hart Howerton, captured the motivation behind this commitment:

“As design helped conquer the epidemics of late 19th and early 20th centuries, what if the design choices we make now addressed the chronic conditions of today – obesity, heart disease, isolation?”

The WELL Community Standard utilizes design-based solutions to build communities that support and enhance human health, while also taking an integrated approach to enhancing inclusivity and sustainability. Together with our working group members, we sought to develop a WELL Community Standard that is adaptable to diverse types of ownership and development, so that this approach can be applied across public, private, and public-private developments, as well as new and existing communities.

The WELL Community Standard also provides a unique opportunity for local and cross-sector stakeholders to engage in the design process. Working group member Tom Murcott, Senior Strategic Advisor at global real estate company Gale International, cites that

“With the right blend of public and private sector engagement, the upside for healthy communities is significant”

The standard leverages multi-stakeholder collaboration into inclusive, holistic approaches to public health through new concepts like Community--which includes features focused on equity--and through new features that encourage practices such as placemaking to drive equitable access to essential resources and services across entire communities. This priority echoed across our working group members--as Susana Saiz shared,

“Healthy communities should not be a trend, but a right for everyone.”

Together with our working group members, we built the WELL Community Standard to set a new global benchmark for healthy communities. We are grateful for the partnership of these leading industry experts in helping us drive toward a future that, in the words of Tim McCarthy, creates

“A built environment that enables all of us to transition from healthcare to the care for one’s health.”

Learn more about our WELL Community Standard and get involved in building a healthier future.