Sponsored by Teknion
Nature appears to be the key. Enhancing the environment with scenes
of nature and views into gardens is more effective at increasing well-being
than doing so with abstract objects. A huge body of research and scientific
literature shows that complaints associated with symptoms of Sick Building
Syndrome (SBS) are reduced when interior plants are brought into buildings.
Such effects were initially thought to be related to the physical characteristics
of plants, but the main benefits seem to be psychological.
Biophilic design has often been regarded as a luxury for employers who
want the best possible workplace for their employees, or those who want to
showcase their efforts to be more environmentally responsible. But, far from
being a luxury, improving employee well-being through biophilia can positively
impact productivity, costs, and the bottom line.
Key biophilic elements include:
w Refuge w Dynamic and diffuse light
w Use of natural and w Visual connections between the
local materials interior and exterior
As we learn more about the built environment and its connection to human health,
the products that we use in those environments—and the materials that make up
those products—become critical. A well-planned office space that supports movement and biophilic design principles is important, but if it is full of products manufactured with toxic or unknown materials that could potentially harm the users,
then we are missing a huge component of the wellness equation. Lately, new
frameworks are emerging to help designers and users understand what materials
they are bringing into their spaces, the known impacts of those materials, and their
environmental footprint. LEED, the Living Building Challenge (LBC), and the WELL
Building Standard are influencing decisions about ingredients, and transparency
declarations like Health Product Declaration (HPD) and DECLARE are supporting
designers who specify the contents of the buildings we occupy.
The Living Building Challenge is an international sustainable building certification
program created in 2006 by the non-profit International Living Future Institute. It is
a philosophy and advocacy tool as well as a certification program that promotes
the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment. It can
be applied to development at all scales, from buildings—both new construction
and renovation— to infrastructure, landscapes, and neighborhoods. It is more rigorous than green certification programs such as LEED or BREEAM.
The categories, or petals, that focus on design and human health are found in
the materials section. This restricts certain “red list” chemicals from being ingredients in product materials that will be part of the building or build-out. The beauty
petal recognizes biophilia. The Living Building Challenge is a truly innovative program to drive transformational change in the built environment. But that’s not all.
There are several organizations that are looking at the impact of chemicals on
the built environment at a content level.
One is the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (www.hpdcollabora-
tive.com). This is a customer-led organization committed to the continual improve-
ment of the building industry’s performance through openness and innovation in the
product supply chain. The Health Product Declaration (HPD) is an objective tool for
the accurate reporting of product contents and how each ingredient relates to the
bigger picture for ecological health. The HPD is public and free to any and all users.
While the ultimate goal of HPDs is full ingredient disclosure, current
marketplace limitations allow manufacturers to keep less than 1% of their
product proprietary as long as they confirm that nothing in the 1% is on the
LBC Red List. Declarations will tighten the transparency rules as the market
shifts and full transparency becomes more commonplace. Just as there was
industry opposition to ingredient labeling for food products that was eventually
overcome by the clear and overwhelming public interest in transparency, we
believe the materials industry will move towards full disclosure.
Another organization on this mission is the WELL Building Standard. It
addresses air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. It works in
alignment with LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and other global building
systems. The WELL Building Standard is grounded in medical research that
demonstrates the connection between the buildings where we spend more than
90 percent of our time and the impact of health and wellness on occupants. An
on-site post-occupancy performance audit is required for WELL certification,
and re-auditing every three years is required to maintain certification.
Buildings should be developed with humans at the center of design. To help
realize this vision, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) administers the
WELL Building Standard, which is an evidence-based system for measuring,
certifying, and monitoring the performance of building features that impact
health and well-being.
We’ve seen that our work environments impact us in significant ways, especially
as we spend increasing amounts of time there. We know that thoughtful
workplace design can have dramatic impact on our health and well-being.
Technology can enable us to work differently and encourage activity. We can
incorporate nature in ways that appeal to us at our deepest human level. We
can pay closer attention to what goes into the furniture and material that we
surround ourselves with. Doing all of this promises to make workers healthier,
happier, and more productive.
We can do this. The question is if we will. Some organizations are already
in the vanguard of this kind of thinking. Others are resisting. Most are probably
indifferent. It is a matter of organizational cultures supporting the idea of well-being
and understanding the connection between wellness and business success.
And in the words of business guru Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy
As with many things that affect public health—from smoking to seat
belts—it’s not a question of knowing what to do; it’s a question of having the
social, political, or organizational support to actually do it.
This consists of six categories or petals:
1. BEAUTY AND INSPIRATION
A living building tells a story.
Safe, healthy, and responsible
for all species.
Humanity has co-opted
enough land; it is time to
A Living Building relies solely
on current solar income.
A Living Building is water
6. INDOOR QUALITY
Maximize health, minimize
The Living Building
Just as ingredient labeling for food products
eventually became standard due to clear and
overwhelming public interest in transparency,
Teknion believes the materials industry will
and should move towards full disclosure.