Q&A with Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the International WELL Building Institute

In their own words, the "WELL Building Institute has a mission to improve human health and well-being in buildings across the world." The WELL standard measures occupant wellness by focusing on seven ‘concepts’ – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

The standard made its way to the UK in the final quarter of 2015, with ‘One Carter Lane‘ (located in the heart of London) becoming the first building in the UK to achieve the WELL standard.

Intrigued to discover more, we spoke to the CEO of the International WELL Building Institute, Rick Fedrizzi…

Hi Rick, please introduce our UK audience to the International WELL Building Institute and the organisation’s key goal

At a time when we spend 90% of our times indoors, it is becoming increasingly important to recognise the profound impact our indoor environments can have on our health and wellness. The International WELL Building Institute launched the WELL Building Standard as the first building standard to focus exclusively on the health impacts indoors environments can have on the people in them, marrying best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research.

The WELL Building Standard is much talked about within the industry, but how long did this take from conception to execution? What were the challenges of rolling it out and across how many countries?

The International WELL Building Institute launched v1 of the WELL Building Standard in October 2014, and since then the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Already, we have more than 400 projects registered, pre-certified or certified through WELL across 28 countries worldwide.

In the UK, it seems to be a common trend now to have at least one slot per commercial property conference related to office ergonomics, health and wellbeing. Do you think that businesses are now starting to register just how important such factors are for their workforce?

As our offices can impact everything from our stress levels to alertness and productivity, it is no surprise that many employers are increasingly recognising that healthy offices not only help attract top talent and provide a benefit to employees, but also create a valuable return on investment. As a result, we’re seeing rapidly expanding interest in WELL, especially within the corporate community.

Just how much has the notion of a ‘green building’ changed over recent years and has technology aided the advancement of greener workspaces?

When the International WELL Building Institute was first launched several years ago, green building certifications like LEED had set out a baseline for how green building practices could impact human health.  But there was no certification devoted specifically to the impact a building would have on the people who use buildings every day. WELL therefore took a much deeper dive into these impacts, and research is increasingly making us aware of just how profound an impact the indoor environment can have.  Technology is also advancing in lockstep.

From your experience, do businesses take much convincing of the benefits of adapting their office design and fit out to accommodate a smarter workspace?

A high percentage of the cost of the building is related to the people inside, which means that addressing occupant health can reduce the largest line item in the 30-year cost of a building – the personnel. Many employers are recognising that the benefits that come with healthier, more productive employees far outweigh the one-time costs, so we’re continuing to see rapid adoption of WELL among the corporate community.

What are your long-term goals and visions for the International WELL Building Institute and the WELL Building Standard? 

Just as LEED and BREEAM were once viewed as uncommon and have now been adopted by thousands of projects, we expect that putting people at the centre of design decisions will become the new normal. Rather than look toward a future of buildings that support wellness, we’ll look at the past and say, “Remember when we didn’t consider the people when designing these spaces that we spend 90% of our lives in? What were we thinking?”

Finally, do you plan on pushing the WELL Building Standard further across the UK, and to further influence the approaches being taken to commercial design and build projects?

Absolutely! The UK is already one of the top five markets where we’ve seen the most interest in WELL outside of the U.S. so far, and we look forward to continuing to support its expansion in the UK and beyond.

About Rick Fedrizzi

In November 2016 global environmental business leader Rick Fedrizzi became chairman and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). Rick is also founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and former CEO of both USGBC and of Green Business Certification Inc. His book Greenthink:  How Profit Can Save the Planet won a prestigious EPPY award for Public Affairs in 2015.

Rick speaks to Hillary Clinton at Greenbuild 2013

You can follow WELL & Rick on Twitter.