Tag Archives: IWBI

Materials in Buildings: the impact on health of those who work, learn and play within them.

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“the next phase of market transformation for the built environment is going to be led by material performance …” 

Health and wellbeing issues relating to the materials we specify, purchase, build with and dispose of has been increasingly arising in discussions of late. These may be within CSR, Environmental ISO workshops or in events such as the Specifi series (recent London). Indeed it is unusual for wellbeing in relation to materials not to be on the agenda for sustainability events.

In addition, within sustainability related meetings with clients, contractors and facilities management organisations, the issue of material health raises, often in reference to Grenfell, asking the question – do we really know the wider impacts on what we specifi, build with, maintain, replace  or dispose of?

Alongside this there is a rapidly growing interest in health related material standards such as Declare, RedList, Portico Fitwell and Well

A welcome addition to the debate is the (forthcoming) Materials Wellography from the Well Build people at IWBI. Below is an extract from their recent blog release which provides a very useful insight to the importance of materials and products we work with day in and day out.

Materials WELLography; your guide to the connection between the materials and products that make up the built environment, and the effect they have on the health of those who work, learn and play within them.

Materials make up our world. Much of the industrialized world is built from man-made, industrial chemicals. The chemical industry converts raw materials into more than 70,000 different chemical substances that make up our world. As the global population increases and urban centers expand, so do both the demand for manufactured goods and the rate of chemical production, which is projected to grow three times faster than the global population and to double every 25 years.1

The quantity and variety of chemicals on the global market makes the task of tracking chemical hazards both critical and extremely difficult. An estimated 95% of chemicals, used largely in construction, lack sufficient data on human health effects.,2 Although various countries apply their own framework for the management of chemical production and use, these are not harmonized globally, so different chemicals are regulated to different extents in different countries.

Life cycle of building materials and exposure hazards. Exposure to harmful chemicals can happen at various stages in the lifecycle of a commercial material or product. Below is an example of this lifecycle:

  1. Exposure can occur when contaminants are released into the environment during manufacturing or materials extraction.3, 4, 5, 6
  2. Throughout occupancy of a built space, chemicals used in furniture, furnishings, paints, adhesives and coatings can off-gas and end up in indoor dust, compromising air quality. 7,8,9,19 Proper ventilation practices and materials selection can help minimize indoor air contaminants. For more information on the benefits of adequate ventilation, refer to the Air WELLography
  3. Finish, maintenance and renovation work often involve dust-laden contaminants, fumes, solvents and gases. This is especially problematic in the absence of the exposure and ventilation controls typically required in production or construction settings.
  4. Construction and demolition work often include exposure to large amounts of dust (made up or and carrying chemical substances), as well as solvents, and other hazardous substances, for example those  associated with use of diesel-powered heavy equipment 10,20. Fortunately, improved awareness of exposure risks in maintenance, renovation and demolition has prompted additional work safety measures through various voluntary standards.

Environmental and Health Impacts. Chemicals used in building materials and byproducts made during their manufacture can persist in the environment. Even small concentrations of these chemicals can find their way into organisms in high enough doses to cause damage. The accumulation of toxicants in water or soil has implications for human health as these chemicals can advance up the food chain and accumulate in human tissue. 14

Long-term, large-scale biomonitoring studies have helped to show the impact of policy changes on human exposure risks. For example, a Swedish study involving long-term testing of human breast milk for the presence of the pesticide DDT and its residues has shown a significant decrease of the chemical following its restriction and later ban. A gradual decrease in PCB is also evident, likely due to efforts to move away from the chemical across the European Union. In contrast to the decline of these two chemicals over time, concentrations of the flame retardant PBDE was found to increase along the same timeline, consistent with increased across EU states. 21

Market forces at work. As evidence of the environmental hazards and health issues related to chemicals accumulates 15, an increasing number of hazard assessment tools emerge in the building material sector. These evaluation tools are being introduced and used in the marketplace as means to differentiate products and ingredients with lower hazards and to certify greener chemical ingredients in consumer products. Despite gaps in data and regulation, the good news is that we have a growing repository of tools at our disposal that can provide direction in understanding the tradeoffs of materials and products over their life cycle.

Careful evaluation and selection of building materials and products is an important and effective first step to identifying safer materials across installation, use, maintenance and disposal. In the long run, the call for the prioritization and responsibility of advancing safer chemicals and sustainable materials can lead to an improved, data-rich market, comprehensive regulations and policy reforms and a shift towards safer chemicals and investment in green chemistry.

Access the full IWBI article here. And download the excellent Well App for news and articles.

References noted above can be found via the IWBI article.

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WELL Building Institute launches pilot programs for new sectors.

Buildings should be developed with people’s health and wellness at the centre of design.

Untitled 5In a recent Press Release IWBI (International Well Building Institute) is calling for organisations to participate in its next stage of development and to pilot the Well Building Standard.  Invites are called for from the retail, multifamily residential, education, restaurant and commercial kitchen sectors.

IWBI Founder Paul Scialla  said “The pilot programs will help us spur innovation and bring us even closer to fully integrating WELL into all sectors of the built environment.”

“The WELL pilot programs will allow participants to be the first to engage at the cutting edge of the sustainability and healthy building movement. IWBI will collect information from participants and industry experts to further refine the standards prior to publication. Upon completion of the pilot program, each standard will move out of the pilot phase and become integrated into the core features of WELL.”

For information or to download the pilot standards, visit www.wellcertified.com/well. Once a project has officially applied to the pilot program through WELL Online, IWBI will contact the project team to arrange an initial evaluation of the project to ensure that it fits the specifications, and provide assistance throughout the pilot certification process.

The Well building standard has great alignment with the Living Building Challenge and was featured at our recent Green Vision / Living Building Challenge Health, Happiness and Mindfulness event in May with myself and  Vicki Lockhart, (@vicki572) Arup (WELL AP) See Healthy Buildings to Healthy Minds – joining the dots at Green Vision

More: The WELL pilot programs will allow participants to be the first to engage at the cutting edge of the sustainability and healthy building movement. IWBI will collect information from participants and industry experts to further refine the standards prior to publication. Upon completion of the pilot program, each standard will move out of the pilot phase and become integrated into the core features of WELL.

WELL is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and wellbeing.

WELL is grounded in a body of medical research that explores the connection between the buildings where we spend more than 90 percent of our time, and the health and wellness impacts on us as occupants.

The WELL Building Standard is the culmination of seven years of research, in partnership with leading scientists, doctors, architects and wellness thought leaders. Pilot programs are now available for projects in the following categories:

  1. Retail: Retail applies to locations where consumers can view and purchase merchandise onsite, and where staff are employed to assist in the sale of products. The Retail pilot standard is applicable to owner- and tenant-occupied projects, and to those in both stand-alone buildings and those integrated into larger structures.
  2. Multifamily Residential: Multifamily Residential applies specifically to projects with at least five dwelling units in a single building with common structural elements. Projects that qualify include apartments, condominiums, townhouses, and other residential complexes within all market thresholds – affordable housing, market-rate and luxury.
  3. Education: Educational Facilities applies to projects where dedicated staff is employed for instructional purposes, and students may be of any age. Courses may cover any range of topics, and facilities may be typified by fully scheduled days or distinct classes in which students enroll at will.
  4. Restaurant: Restaurants applies to locations where a consumer can purchase food and dine onsite, including indoor or outdoor seating. The establishment may be either self-serve or include wait staff that tend to consumers. The Restaurant pilot standard does not include take-out only establishments or establishments whose primary source of revenue derives from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Further, the Restaurant pilot standard only applies to dining spaces—it does not cover kitchens in which food is prepared.
  5. Commercial Kitchen: Commercial Kitchens applies to locations where cooks prepare food for other building users. It is not applicable to office kitchenettes or home kitchens. In general, spaces subject to local health inspection are likely to use this Pilot Addendum. Commercial Kitchen is always paired with another standard, such as Restaurant or Education.

All pilot programs were developed as an adaptation of WELL v1.0. Using v1.0 as a baseline, relevant features from v1.0 were incorporated into each pilot, while features that only apply to commercial and institutional spaces were removed. Certain features were also adapted, so that their intent remains the same but the details are different. Prior to being finalized, all pilots will complete a thorough and transparent peer review process with scientific, practitioner and medical experts. During this process, expert feedback from leading researchers and industry practitioners will help refine each pilot for its final release.

Pilot projects are eligible to achieve Silver, Gold or Platinum level pilot certification, following the same method as WELL v1.0. Through IWBI’s collaboration with the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), projects receive third-party certification by GBCI.

About the International WELL Building Institute™ The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI) is a public benefit corporation (B-Corp) whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment. B-Corps like IWBI are an emerging U.S. structure for corporations committed to balancing public benefits with profitability – harnessing the power of private capital for greater good.

IWBI administers the WELL Building Standard® (WELL) – a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of buildings that impact the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work, and learn in them. Fulfilling the vision of IWBI Founder Paul Scialla, IWBI has a pioneering altruistic capitalism model that will address social responsibility and demonstrate a sustainable model for philanthropy.

IWBI has committed to direct 51 percent of net profits received from WELL Certification project fees toward charitable contributions and impact investment focused on health, wellness, and the built environment. IWBI was established by Delos in 2013 pursuant to a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to improve the way people live by developing spaces that enhance occupant health and quality of life by sharing the WELL Building Standard globally. WELLcertified.com

About the WELL Building Standard® The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work, and learn in the buildings.

WELL focuses on seven categories of building performance: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Pioneered by Delos, the WELL Building Standard is grounded in evidence-based medical research that demonstrates the connection between the buildings where we spend more than 90 percent of our time and health and wellness impacts on us as occupants.

The WELL Building Standard is administered by the International WELL Building Institute™ and third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). WELLcertified.com ### Press Contact: Taryn Holowka taryn.holowka@wellcertified.com 202.828.1144