October 11, 2022

WELL Building Standard Part 5: Importance of Building Systems

As we wrap this series on WELL Building Standards, it is a good time to review the significant role mechanical and electrical systems play in maintaining a healthy building environment. Air, water, light, and comfort are all driven by these systems. It is important to identify goals for air, thermal comfort, and sound early in the project. The systems driving these require an integrated design approach to fit seamlessly into the building design.


Air purity is critical to having a high-quality indoor environment that keeps occupants healthy, focused, and energized. This requires adequate fresh air from outside and robust filtration to capture particulates and contaminants. Heath care facilities have understood the importance of air quality for many years now, and thanks to the pandemic, many other industries have started to realize how much it impacts all of us. According to estimates from the U.S. EPA, net avoidable costs associated with indoor air pollution amount to well over $100 billion annually with 45% of those costs attributable to avoidable deaths from radon and environmental tobacco smoke, about 45% from lost productivity, and about 10% from avoidable respiratory diseases.The WELL air concept implements strategies for buildings to create environments that promote employee productivity, health, and well-being. In addition, many schools have found that as they increase their building’s air quality, they have better performing students and less absences due to illnesses.


With roughly 60% of our bodies made from water it is critical that the water we ingest is safe and free from contaminants. The quality of water can change based on industry practices around the site, moving water, and the building filtering system. Therefore, it is important to re-check water quality yearly to make sure there is safe water available for all.


The type of light in our workplaces affects how the human body functions. Too harsh or not enough light may lead to eyestrain, decreased productivity, and headaches. The cycle of natural light is synced with our body’s internal circadian rhythm which tells us when to be awake and when to sleep. Sleep is vital to healthy bodies and when interrupted, can lead to many heath concerns such as weight gain, mood swings, cardiovascular problems, and increased cancer risk.


Try working when your office is 80 degrees and 70% humidity, or when it’s 60 degrees and your fingers are going numb. It’s not easy. It is essential to have appropriately sized and well-functioning HVAC systems to maintain occupant comfort. Sounds are another disruption to workers. Either too much or too little background noise can be distracting. The WELL building standard aims to create buildings with acoustical harmony as well.

The role buildings and systems play in human health and well-being has never been more evident or more important. Thanks to an evolving evidence base, we understand more about the relationship between the built or physical environment and human health. We know how to create spaces that enhance, not hinder, health and well-being. We can measure and improve the quality of our air, water, and light. We can design environments that fuel our bodies, move us, keep us connected, inspire our work, and facilitate a good night’s sleep. With WELL, we can now put this into practice as we aspire to transform buildings and organizations in ways that advance health and well-being, helping people thrive.

Progressive Companies has WELL accredited professionals throughout the firm, from architects to interior designers to engineers. We’d love to answer any questions you have about WELL Building Standard or discuss a project you have in mind.