It’s not all about square footage, location or exclusive materials. Through the last global health crisis we have discovered the importance of living in homes specifically adapted to our physical and emotional needs. The concept of healthy housing requires profound reflection, and certifications like WELL are crucial due to the precision of their studies, which help to improve the quality of a building by uniting elements such as sustainability, energy efficiency and the well-being of those who live in it.

A brief history of WELL

First introduced in 2014, the WELL Standard is a building certificate developed by The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) which focuses on the relationship between buildings and people with the goal of improving their health and well-being.

Global Building Certification System

Its dynamic scoring system was established after investing $30 million over six years of research by physicians, scientists, and industry professionals and after more than 100 interventions that helped to create an evidence-based method for measuring, certifying, and monitoring performance factors.

Among them, the WELL certification parcels out efforts in 10 directions and points of interest including air, water, food, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, and community as differentiating factors for the client, which have marked a new era in the transformation of spaces.

WELL ROI in office buildings

For Scott Muldavin, president of the real estate strategy consulting firm The Muldavin Company and author of the book Value Beyond Cost Savings, “there are investments [during the building construction process] that can seriously impact people’s mental and physical health”.

For him, office buildings are a good starting point for understanding the relationship between the cost of investment in sustainable and healthy buildings and their true return, since “it is easier to quantify human indicators such as worker productivity, reduction of absenteeism and sick leave, the capacity to attract and retain professional talent, and the happiness of a company’s employees when they invest in the improvements outlined by WELL,” he explains.

And he’s right. According to studies by Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania) to evaluate the ROI (Return On Investment) of such certifications in office buildings, improvements in air quality can mean productivity gains on the order of 8 to 11%, and 5.5% derived from lighting. On the other hand, temperature control and noise reduction can avoid yield drops of 4 to 6% and 66% respectively, and it is estimated that with a productivity increase of 0.5%, a return on investment of almost 300% is obtained for a corporation.

WELL ROI in Real Estate

But the effects of WELL are also manifested in residential buildings through the daily experience of its inhabitants.

According to cognitive behavioural psychologist Leire Ibarreta, “the quality of the indoor air, lighting, water (or lack thereof), and the interiors of buildings can be responsible for a whole series of health issues such as respiratory diseases, problems with concentration and/or sleep, dehydration, obesity and pain, or, on the contrary, they can work as a driving force for well-being”.

She adds, “Our body, through our physical and emotional health, constantly interacts with the space we inhabit, and registers -without us realizing it- a wide spectrum of stimuli between pleasure and frustration, capable of caring for or weakening our health”.

From a more mental point of view, according to Ibarreta “the self-identification that we draw from the home as a projection of what we are (of our essence and even our self-worth) also feeds us back, as a mirror effect, negative messages to our self-esteem when our home does not generate pleasure”.

For Ibarreta, it is important to go over the key concepts of WELL applied to housing one by one.

Air

“We breathe more than 15,000 liters of air every day, and its quality in our homes has an enormous impact on our health and our cognitive abilities”.

Water

“If we have access to high-quality water, we will also perceive this in the taste, increasing our consumption, keeping us hydrated and reducing the possibilities of consuming sugary drinks, which are directly responsible for obesity”.

Light

“It only takes 15 minutes of exposure to natural light to release endorphins, but inadequate light can cause sleep problems and other health disorders”.

Thermal comfort

“Factors such as temperature and humidity control have a decisive impact on our well-being”.

Sound

“Exposure to noise sources such as traffic can lead to sleep disturbance, hypertension and even learning problems in school-aged children. Noise control and proper acoustic insulation are essential”.

Materials

“One must be very scrupulous during the construction phase in order to avoid future exposure to contaminating components of their housing materials”.

Mind

“Design and technology strategies can enhance emotional and cognitive experiences. The senses react to precise textures or aromas, and there are advantages such as the closeness to nature which directly influence our concentration and relaxation”.

Community

“The environment in which the house is located, through the relationships established with the neighbors or the access to health or protection services, generates well-being based on a sense of belonging”.

Financial benefits: the economic opportunity of WELL

In specific economic terms, Scott Muldavin points out that the WELL certification “has a direct impact on the value of the asset while providing recognition and differentiation in the saturated market of luxury real estate”.

This coincides with the Bentall Green real estate investment platform, whose studies show that certifications such as WELL improve tenant retention by 6%, prolong building occupation by up to 10%, and increase its value by 8-10%.

Lastly, the McKinsey consultancy anticipates that WELL buildings will also benefit from the explosion of wellness, an industry valued at one trillion dollars and which saw a growth of 10% between 2013 and 2015 despite the strained economic climate and will continue to generate added value to these homes.

An example: the Liora apartment building in Estepona

The leading international real estate players are not indifferent to the importance of visions such as WELL, as shown by the fact that Excem Group and Pininfarina have made it one of their undisputed standards when creating their exciting project in Estepona.

Named Liora, it is an impressive development of biophilic architecture with 38 homes on the beachfront. An avant-garde building that encompasses all forms of client well-being while reducing environmental impact and generates a healthy experience as a community, including 2500m2 of common spaces which include a gastronomic venue, spa facilities, work area, cinema, children’s play room, heated indoor pool and gym.