For many years now, the design community has been laser-focused on creating ‘green’ buildings that use less energy and have a smaller impact on their surrounding environments. That is until recently. Due to growing concern amongst the healthcare community that Americans are spending too much of their days indoors coupled with the scientific community’s increasing curiosity of how our indoor environments are affecting our health and productivity, a new set of building design standards have emerged. The WELL Building Standards, launched in late 2014, focus on improving the human experience within a building by placing health and wellness at the heart of the design, construction, and operating decisions. This design standard evaluates a building based on seven different areas of interest for enhanced occupant wellness and then awards a certification of silver, gold, or platinum level based on the results of the rating system. Lighting, an integral part of every building, is one of the standard’s key focus areas.
When an owner decides to pursue project certification through the WELL Building Standards, the discussion regarding how the lighting system can positively contribute to an occupant’s health should begin early in the design process. The WELL Lighting Standards provide a specific set of ‘pre-condition’ requirements which the lighting system must meet for the project to be eligible for certification. These guidelines address many different aspects of a lighting system however three main concepts are repeated throughout the standard as the main ingredients of a healthy visual environment. Enhanced visual acuity, avoidance of potential glare sources, and increased access to natural light are the building blocks for WELL lighting. It is also the first building standard to reward the use of a lighting system (both natural and electric) to positively support occupant’s circadian rhythm function. Scientists continue to study and provide proof that a properly functioning circadian rhythm promotes more restful sleep, encourages faster healing times, improves mood, and reduces chances of inflammation (considered the root cause of many diseases, including some forms of cancer). It is also believed that when building occupants experience enhanced wellness in their environment owners see increased productivity levels and higher attendance rates from the staff.
Now more than ever, the design community is realizing that the choices made when constructing a building can have direct and long-lasting impacts on the world and its occupants. With an abundance of eco-friendly lighting systems hitting the market each year along with the WELL Building Standards guiding the way, we now have all the tools we need to create a better world for everyone both inside and out.