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With the wellness economy worth $2.4 trillion, Karen Fletcher looks at how this is affecting our buildings.

Wellness is a major trend in our society today, with many brands adopting it as a significant part of their marketing and corporate statements.

The wellness industry economy has been estimated to be valued at $2.4 trillion.

The construction and property sectors are also feeling the impact of this movement. Buildings play a huge part in ensuring employee ‘wellness’ – little wonder when we all spend so much time in our workplaces.

There is also increasing research being carried out into how buildings impact on humans and their productivity.

Extensive research

The British Council for Offices (BCO) conducted extensive research in 2018 and now includes ‘wellness’ as a key part of its standard specification for offices.

The BCO states that ‘there is substantial evidence which demonstrates that the design of an office impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.’

BRE has also undertaken a long-term study on its own Watford campus, where a broad range of factors, from ventilation to biophilia, are being examined for their impacts on occupants.

You may already have seen several mentions of the WELL Certification tool. This originated in the US but is spreading worldwide. The WELL standard is ‘a flexible framework for improving health and human experience through design’.

The aim of WELL certification is to create improvements for business in areas such as productivity, engagement and retention – all high-value items in today’s competitive world.


The WELL standard has requirements for various elements of building performance. For building services, the important parts of the standards are air, water, light and comfort.

The aspect of air includes elements such as air quality standards; ventilation effectiveness; filtration; VOC reduction; and moisture management – among others.  

The term ‘comfort’ has a number of constituent parts which particularly focus on thermal comfort and the management of noise.  

 The BCO produces a Guide to Specification which is widely used by contractors and clients. This publication is due to be updated this year and will reflect the growing focus on wellbeing.

The Council states: “The new BCO Guide to be published in early 2019 will be taking on board the growing realisation that people, productivity and wellbeing are the principal drivers in the value proposition of creating office space.”


There’s no doubt that clients will spend money on their buildings where they can see good payback.

While energy efficiency is being pushed up the agenda by legislation, ‘wellness’ and resulting increases in staff productivity have clear financial benefits for clients.

If better ventilation rates, lighting, controls and heating/cooling systems can be shown to deliver higher outputs for business, we can certainly expect to see more focus on building services systems such as air conditioning, for example.

This should be a priority

As the BCO says: “We recognise the importance of the growing health and wellbeing agenda and the implications it has to both office design and how the attitudes toward the office are changing… Creating a better workplace environment is something that should be a priority for the property professionals.”

While it’s easy to dismiss ‘wellbeing’ as a few bean bags and lunch-time yoga classes, there is a harder side to this that could benefit the building services industry.

Refurbishments focused on better internal environments must address services – and hopefully lead to better specifications.

Karen Fletcher is editor of Modern Building Services