Health and wellness take center stage

Global Real Estate Transparency Index, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economies, businesses and communities worldwide and upended how and where people work, live and play. Many employees are eager to return to the office, but they want and need to return to a safe and clean office environment. While always important, health and wellness are now at the forefront of the journey toward a post-COVID-19 world. This journey requires data transparency on health and wellness metrics for building owners and occupiers alike. The 2020 Transparency Index incorporates new questions in the survey to provide insight on which territories are leading in the adoption of health and wellness building certification, and what we can expect as we enter a ‘new normal.’

What is health and wellness?

Building wellness reflects the impact that the physical workplace, from construction to occupancy, has on a person’s physical and mental health. Lighting, air quality, noise levels and materials impact building occupants throughout the day, every day.

Although green buildings have become a must-have for many owners and occupants over the past two decades, it wasn’t until the late 2000s when wellness came into frame. While green buildings address environmental sustainability, building health and wellness focuses specifically on human impacts.

Select countries are leading the way

Adoption of health and wellness building certification is currently not widespread. WELL Building Standard and Fitwel (both originating from the U.S.) remain the foremost health and wellness certification systems internationally. But as with green building certifications, we are beginning to see the emergence of nationally-developed systems such as Australia’s NABERS Indoor Environment and Singapore’s BCA-HPB Green Mark for Healthier Workplaces. India is also taking steps with its IGBC Health and Well-being Rating. Such frameworks enhance transparency through providing clear wellness standards.

Moving forward to a ‘new normal’

Moving forward to a ‘new normal’ COVID-19 has brought health and wellness to the forefront of any corporate re-entry and reimagination program. It is a substantial stress test for building operators and occupiers. It is also a game changer that has shifted attitudes to building wellness, health and hygiene. Given the severity of the pandemic and the stakes involved, ‘well buildings’ are not just a ‘nice to have’; they are an imperative not only to keep employees healthy but to enhance their safety and productivity too.

COVID-19 will fast-track the rise of building wellness which was already underway as an evolution of green buildings. Transparency of ‘building health’ will become far more important – in terms of access to metrics that track not only light and noise, but also building ventilation, air filtration and cleaning. We could see the confluence of proptech and medtech in the next generation of smart buildings that will embolden operators to make real-time, data-driven decisions.