On April 25th, ULI Washington’s WLI hosted their 5th annual Signature Event: “Breathe Better, Work Better, Live Better: Cultivating Wellness in the Built Environment and in Life” to benefit Suited for Change, a DC non-profit. The networking event held on the rooftop of One Franklin Square drew more than 90 attendees for an in-depth conversation about wellness. Rachel Gutter, the Chief Product Officer at International WELL Building Institute, and Tama Duffy Day, the Health & Wellness Practice Area Leader at Gensler, shared how to strategically create healthier spaces and the financial and individual benefits of incorporating wellness in the design and operation of real estate.
Rachel spoke about how our environments used to support us such as daylight helping us focus and regulating our sleep cycles. She referenced the building as a caretaker and shared that our built environment and connections to nature can contribute to our productivity, self of place and improve our focus. Rachel described the elements of the WELL standards and that many developers are turning inward first and verifying their own building and being caretakers of their employees, then taking that practice and implementing into the communities.
Tama shared that design in healthcare can reduce environmental impact, improve air quality, connect us to nature, promote community health, facility wayfinding ease, increase patient satisfaction, deliver care for the caregiver, provide positive distraction, promote cultural transformation and restore emotional wellbeing and examples of how these design elements have been implemented. Interestingly, your zip code has a bigger indicator of life expectancy than your DNA, providing evidence of importance of the built environment.
Rachel shared that her organization is trying to arm the business community with a business case for developers to pursue WELL certification and what the return on investment is for WELL certified projects. They are researching as many projects as possible, but there are less than 100 certified projects so data is limited. The International WELL Building Institute is hosting webcasts for the community and recently completed a series of nine round tables to get input to WELL 2.0 from core customers and stakeholders and are implementing feedback from these round tables.
WELL community is a program that can work more with the public sector is a pilot program that will focus on spaces in between buildings and look at projects in disadvantaged buildings.
Kate from Suited for Change spoke about their partnership with Giant to teach nutrition to the women who come to Suited for Change. She also shared that Suited for Change is also serving men and that the need in our region is great and people need a little help to get a job and dignity because they are fighting to be self-sustaining.
The evening concluded with a meditation led by Recharj and networking on the rooftop.