27 March 2020 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is setting up a task force in a bid to reduce the "enormous health burden from Covid-19 and other respiratory infections".
Its goal is to define the critical role that buildings, organisations and communities play in prevention and preparedness, resilience and recovery from such illnesses.
IWBI president Rachel Gutter said the task force will publish guidelines and resources for individuals, organisations and communities to help them better integrate actionable insights and verified strategies into how they manage both their buildings and their organisations.
It will also assess that ways in which the WELL Building Standard itself can "be further strengthened so the system, which touches more than a half-billion square feet of space across 58 countries, can best continue to support prevention and preparedness, resiliency and recovery in this critical moment and into the future".
The study will take a broad approach, considering both new and recurring infectious agents that can affect large populations.
The task force will consist of Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, former president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and distinguished professor of population health and health equity at the University of Pennsylvania; Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, MA, MBA, distinguished professor at UCLA in the Fielding School of Public Health and the Geffen School of Medicine and former director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Richard Carmona, M.D., MPH, FACS, who was 17th United States Surgeon General and is currently distinguished professor at the University of Arizona; and Joseph Allen, DSc, MPH, assistant professor and director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
It will include experts from public health, government, academia and philanthropy, as well as the architecture, design and real estate communities.
Rick Fedrizzi, IWBI chairman and CEO, said: "IWBI's work centres on providing evidence-backed solutions that advance better health and well-being in the places and spaces where we spend our lives."
He added: "The creation of this task force provides a mechanism to focus on this immediate challenge and collect and apply the expertise and insight of our global community, which includes practising physicians, environmental and behavioural scientists, leading design practitioners and innovation leaders from global corporations."
Dr Lavizzo-Mourey said: "This task force can help us focus quickly on actionable measures we can take to more fully deliver resources needed to advance a global culture of health that includes everyone."
Dr Fielding said: "This timely effort will mine the scientific literature to identify enhanced opportunities for the built environment to improve population health."
Dr Allen said those who manage real estate could have a huge impact "if we improve our buildings, as well as the policies, protocols and procurement guidelines organisations have in place, so that they work together to protect and improve the health of everyone. This pandemic is the challenge of our time and buildings will play a central role in our response, and ultimate recovery".
More information about the Task Force and how to get involved can be found here.