Is your building up to standard to meet the new WELL Health-Safety rating?
It’s not often that the world of building certification becomes a celebrity topic. But with a recent star-studded campaign behind it, the new WELL Health-Safety rating is trying to become a household name. Lady Gaga, Robert Deniro and Venus Williams have joined a raft of medical experts to encourage offices, cafes, cultural spaces, shops and more to display their health and safety credentials to encourage visitors to enter with confidence.
The goal of the campaign is to raise customer awareness on the availability of a health, safety and wellbeing quality mark on buildings. I support this as a building’s credentials shouldn’t be confined to its O&M manuals and ought to be understood by those who use it every day. There are also clear commercial benefits for building occupiers to embrace transparency as we plan to re-open city centres and high streets safely.
But what needs to change before a building is awarded a certification like the WELL Health-Safety rating?
The facilities manager’s role is integral to help spaces achieve and maintain this standard because it focuses on the operation of spaces rather than their construction. This is good news, especially for smaller businesses, as there’s no need to remodel buildings or install entire new systems. Although achieving WELL Health-Safety isn’t so demanding on the physical space, it does involve a different dynamic for those who use it.
1. Show safe operation
A fundamental concern in light of Covid-19 is the basic hygiene of a space. This begins with air and water quality, and includes high-touch surfaces too.
WELL requires annual measurements for air and water quality. Most water suppliers will provide this information for free. Air quality measurements entail particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and toxicants, such as total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), ozone and carbon monoxide. These can be undertaken by an air quality specialist collecting samples from within the building.
Once gathered, the data can be shared with occupiers for transparency. Advice from public health engineers or mechanical and electrical (M&E) engineers will provide further clarity on associated risks of legionella which FMs can use to develop and implement prevention plans for their buildings.
Additional steps to creating cleaner air in your building include reviewing smoke-free zones near by an entrance, windows or vents, as this can impact the air quality inside.
Reviewing and minimising high-touch surfaces throughout the building may be one of the more expensive measures involved in achieving a WELL Health-Safety certification.
While some solutions may be as simple as clear signposting to minimise handling or touching, longer-term interventions could include hands-free operations with the use of automated or sensor-controlled systems; namely, water faucets and entry doors.
2. Engage with your supply chain
Facilities managers will need to review and adapt contractor practices and inspect their supply chains too. This requires rigorous cleaning regimes as well as ensuring that all products meet the WELL criteria for minimising the use of chemicals with hazardous or harmful ingredients. In more detail, this could also entail facilities managers requiring wellbeing measures in place for building staff, including security and cleaning teams.
As an employer, you will need to appraise your HR benefits against the requirements of the WELL standard. Initial elements to provide could include: specific training, mental health support and adequate sick leave so no staff are incentivised to come to work unwell.
3. Engage with occupier organisations
How closely do you work with occupier leadership teams, HR leads or office managers about the set-up of their offices, shops or other spaces?
Achieving WELL Health-Safety certification requires building management and organisational management to work together to create healthier spaces. This can include agreeing to emergency preparedness procedures, business continuity plans and health and wellness awareness promotion. While this will already be in place for some organisations, Covid-19 has underscored that these measures are essential.
Now is the time to research and implement certifications such as WELL Health-Safety to prepare the spaces for a safer re-opening.
Giulia Mori is a wellbeing specialist at TFT