A Down and Dirty Q & A on WELL

Happy two generation family at home gathered at the dining table with two small children

Why do we need a standard?

Although the WELL standard doesn’t have a certification standard for single-family residential spaces, we use the framework to craft homes centered on human wellness, not simply energy efficiency. Our homes have a significant impact on overall wellness. Everything from the air you breathe and the water you drink, to lighting systems and the materials you use to renovate your home play an active role in achieving wellness. Actively pursuing, creating, and maintaining a healthy, balanced home is the foundation for a healthy life. As homeowners, there are many choices you can make as you work toward an optimal state of wellness. Let us introduce to you The WELL Building Standard – a standard we implement into all of our projects and why this is important to you as a homeowner.

What is The WELL Building Standard?

The Well Building Standard * is a standard that focuses entirely on the health and wellness of people in buildings. It is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind (International Well Building Institute). WELL includes strategies to deliver more intentional spaces by following specific design standards and operational policies that focus on improving health. By following these standards and policies and hiring a professional that is WELL certified, you as a homeowner can be confident that you are investing in a future of good health and well-being. 

What does it mean to be certified?

Our President has a WELL Accredited Professional certification. This demonstrates his personal and professional familiarity with the WELL Building Standard and equips him to lead WELL projects out in the wild. This familiarity is what gives our business insight into wellness-centered design and helps improve the health of all our clients.

What principles of the WELL Building Standard do you incorporate into your designs and solutions?

1. Air

Exposure to air pollutants, chemicals, and toxins has been shown to increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Household air pollution is rated as the third most important cause of ill health for the World’s population (Well Standard 2.1, pg. 6). Providing proper ventilation in the right locations, leveraging filtration systems, and balancing re-use/outside air is paramount in this effort. At Vigeo, we combat unhealthy air by limiting VOC producing materials and practices during construction. We also design our building envelopes and HVAC systems to carefully control air flow between interior and exterior air, leveraging spray-foam insulation, HEPA air filtration, and UV purification. To learn more about the danger of VOCs in the home, read https://vigeoconstruction.com/vocs-in-the-home/

2. Water

Chlorine and chloramine are often used to kill pathogenic organisms but can lead to the formation of THMs and HAAs, which are risk factors for cancer and other adverse health effects (pg. 39). The presence of heavy metals and water additives can also be consumed through contaminated water and transport systems. Removing contaminants, sediment, micro-organisms, and reusing/properly managing drinking and waste water is paramount to good health. At Vigeo, we use water filtration systems to purify incoming city/well water and ensure your family is safely taken care of.

3. Nourishment

Often overlooked within the design, remodeling, and construction space, nutrition is a top contributor to the global burden of noncommunicable diseases and is also a modifiable risk factor for numerous preventable, chronic diseases (pg 53). Creating access to healthier food is instrumental in promoting good health and wellness. For this reason, we design outdoor spaces with our clients and encourage them to grow their own fruit trees and vegetable gardens. We also design kitchens and communal spaces in a way that encourages the presence of fresh vegetables and gardens for family consumption.

4. Movement

Physical inactivity is a primary focus of public health due to a rise in premature mortality and chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, stroke, dementia and some forms of cancer (pg. 99). Movement goes beyond a home gym and a yard for your kids to play around in. Movement takes into account daily habits and productivity principles to create an environment where you’re encouraged to get up and move around. This begins with a healthy flow in your home and encompasses home gyms, seamless transitions between interior and exterior space, and cleverly hiding electronics from daily view.

5. Thermal Comfort

The indoor thermal environment in developed countries accounts for approximately half of a building’s energy consumption and is closely linked to our health, well-being, and productivity (pg. 133). Some examples for maintaining thermal comfort include installing windows and doors that are properly insulated, smart thermostats, and radiant flooring. At Vigeo, we also use spray foam insulation, which yields a higher R-value by thickness compared to batt insulation. This increases the energy-efficiency of your home and allows for greater control over your home’s thermal comfort. Read about the amazing benefits of spray foam insulation here https://vigeoconstruction.com/the-benefits-of-spray-foam-insulation/

6. Sound

Sound and noise pollution have been linked to sleep disturbance, hypertension, and the reduction of mental arithmetic in children. Properly insulating your home, using sound proof materials in your green home design, and locating HVAC and other utilities in the proper places within the home can help reduce noise and promote mental well-being. 

7. Lighting

Lighting has also been shown to affect circadian rhythm; high light levels from bright screens at night, especially in the blue spectrum, or from outside light pollution, can disrupt the body’s natural clock and has been linked with obesity, diabetes, depression, and metabolic disorders. Incorporating natural light into your home as well as creating an ambiance with adjustable lighting is important for good health. At Vigeo, we use adjustable LED lighting to allow our homeowners to adapt their lighting warmth and intensity based on what works well for them.

8. Mind

Mental health and substance use conditions are a widespread global health concern. Collectively, they account for 13% of the global burden of disease and an estimated 32% of years lived with disability. Combating mental health begins with promoting a safe and comfortable home environment and is an important principle of the WELL Building Standard that we follow. Making your home’s layout work for your family should always be considered when venturing into a home remodeling project. You can also accomplish this by creating seamless indoor/outdoor transition spaces, private sanctuaries/gardens on the property, or even bringing nature into the home to improve mood and productivity.

9. Community

We love to share experiences, perspectives, and ideas with each other. Developing a design strategy to create both gathering and intimate spaces for these conversations promotes positive mental health while fostering a community mindset with neighbors, family, and friends. This includes building a community in the home just as much as outside of the home. For one family we worked with, moving the kitchen to the original dining room space improved flow and created more space and privacy for the family, promoting an opportunity for intimate gatherings. For another family, removing storage and installing a large kitchen island where guests could gather is what they needed most. Having a shared location is instrumental in proper health and addressing human behavior is important when building and renovating homes.

10. Material Origin and Sustainability

This concept aims to reduce human exposure to hazardous building ingredients by restricting or eliminating compounds or products in exchange for safer replacements. Here at Vigeo, we also include recycling and reusing materials in this category to reduce the environmental impact of new production for our products. We encourage our clients to reuse furniture and materials whenever possible (giving that old table and chairs a facelift) to reduce renovation expense and the burden on landfills and donate lightly used vanities, chairs, tables, and other finishing products to Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations. We also encourage our clients to select sustainable certified materials wherever possible and those that carry proper material disclosures. Read https://vigeoconstruction.com/practical-green-home-design/ for more information on our green home design approach.

What can I expect from a WELL inspired home?

You can expect many benefits from employing these principles and hiring a company that is WELL certified.

1. Improved health

We design, remodel, and build with health implications in mind. As an example, a client we worked with a few years ago kept getting sick and doctors couldn’t determine a cause outside of prolong influenza like symptoms. After performing our air quality testing, we located the presence of black mold on the top of the kitchen cabinets. With proper abatement, our client’s health improved overnight. In fact, the International Well Building Institute (IWBI) states that more than 47% of homeowners experienced healthcare cost reduction from 1–5% by leveraging these principles.

2. Reduced maintenance costs and utilities

A reduction in maintenance costs and utilities is the number one benefit our clients almost always see when incorporating these principles into their green home design. Although designing green spaces requires upfront capital, proper ventilation and airflow – increased durability of materials and renewable energy often reduces long-term home ownership costs.

3. A positive impact on the environment

Most of our clients appreciate the sustainability portion of a green home design, knowing that our individual impact on the Earth is minimized for future generations. We have clients that prefer to use tree-fall wood floors to prevent deforestation, renewable/alternative energy to reduce carbon emissions, and Environmental/Health Product Declaration certified materials to minimize potential health impacts for themselves and their children for this very reason.

4. Increased productivity

When we talk about productive home-space, we’re referring to the WELL Building standard and our intent to craft spaces that are customized to meet the purpose and preferences of an individual engaged in their selected task.

In our company, we consistently focus on building a productive home-space with wellness in mind. Creating a productive home space means focusing on designing a home that works for you, instead of you constantly working for it. This means a variety of things, depending on the individual homeowner, but always takes into account how you spend your time, what you consider a waste of time, and what you actually enjoy doing. It could be as simple as installing a learning Nest thermometer so you don’t have to consistently adjust your home’s temperature setting. It can even be as large as moving walls to better utilize wasted space. Regardless of the project, the focus is always on creating a home that supports your needs instead of taking up time. Learn more about organization strategies for productivity, here https://vigeoconstruction.com/5-organization-strategies-for-productivity/

If you’re interested in learning more about the WELL Building Standard, or have questions about how we can apply the standard to your build, don’t hesitate to contact us here https://vigeoconstruction.com/contacts/. You can also read more about this standard on https://www.wellcertified.com/

*Citations: All references to health research and studies can be found within the Well Building Standard v2.1 at wellcertified.com. Page numbers in this post reference the page number where citations may be found in the standard.

International WELL Building Institute, www.wellcertified.com/.