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Healthy office certification set to boom

Corporate office buildings have long been subject to environmental certification. Standards such as Leed and Breeam attach to nearly all major office buildings. The aim is to lower a building's carbon footprint and its overall impact on the planet.

Now attention is turning to the impact buildings have on the physical health of those who occupy them. New certifications including the Delos Well Building Standard and the US government backed Fitwel certification are being rolled out at some pace and look set to have a major impact on corporate health and wellness over the next few years and beyond.

Tackling a sedentary workforce

The new standards are extremely welcome from a corporate health perspective - and long overdue. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average American spends almost 90 percent of their time indoors. Worse, academic research suggests that 60-80% of office workers time is spent sedentary. Of the little time spent moving at all, just 4-5% is classed ‘moderately or vigorously’ active - the level of activity required to deliver health benefit. Poor air, light and nutrition is also a feature of  many corporate offices (no matter how grand their atriums) and, again, the new standards tackle these fundamental issues head on.

Well Building Standard

The certifications are certainly solidly evidence-based in the area of fitness/physical activity, our particular area of expertise at StepJockey. The Well Building Standard has been designed in partnership with the Mayo Clinic in the US and Fitwel brings together experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Center for Active Design in New York.

In terms of reach and behaviour change, the focus on the built environment also has major advantages for the efficacy of corporate wellness more generally. Specifically it should:

  • Force a focus on the indoors where employees spend so much of their time and where the risks are most evident

  • Impact much larger numbers than traditional wellness schemes. This is because, by their nature, environmental interventions (clean air, good light etc) impact all by default rather than choice

  • Cause a re-prioritisation of facilities spend, with image-led ‘beanbag-ization’ type initiatives giving way to more evidence-based, staff focused interventions

The Well Standard can be applied to both new and existing buildings, with building owners achieving different scores (silver, gold, platinum) according to performance. If the experience in environmental certification is anything to go by, it will only be a matter of time before tenant demand and therefore rental yields start to be impacted by a buildings health rating.

Spreading fast

Already more than 270 buildings worldwide are or are about to achieve the Well Standard, with a slew of new buildings preparing for the Standard - including several in London. Major property businesses including JLL, CBRE and British Land are all getting involved.

In the ‘fitness’ stream of the Well Standard, we are obviously delighted to note that stair prompts are a mandatory requirement for both new and existing buildings. The StepJockey gamification platform, which enables employers to incentivise habitual stair use through challenges and rewards, should go some way towards earning more ambitious companies a Platinum rating.

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