Especially at times like these, public health is a vital issue. But can buildings make a contribution? And if so, in what way? We spoke to Dick Vink of Progam Bouwmanagement B.V. about this.
WELL Building Standard, benchmark for healthy real estate
Dick assists clients with all types of issues relating to housing, new construction and transformation. And health is playing an increasingly important role in these issues. Dick explains: “It started five years ago: My wife’s work relates to a healthy lifestyle for and by women. So there was a lot of discussion at home about health aspects. At one point I thought: Why is sustainability a major theme when it comes to real estate, but no one ever talks about healthy buildings? While googling, I discovered the WELL Building Standard. To my amazement, I read a lot of what I heard from my wife. And it turned out that architectural aspects have an impact on health.”
When I started reading more about the WELL Building Standard, my eyes really opened. There was a great deal I didn’t know, even though I’ve been around for ages. I immediately thought: What have I been doing wrong all these years out of ignorance?
– Dick Vink, Progam Bouwmanagement B.V.
WELL in practice
Just two weeks after discovering WELL, Dick had the opportunity to put it into practice. “I had just started working on a new project with Wim Huibregts from Human Total Care. He wanted to create a new office and renovate an existing one. He contacted me for real estate and housing advice. This was the perfect opportunity to apply WELL. After consultation with Wim and the technical installation consultant, we set everything in motion to bring about one of the first WELL Certified Gold projects in the Netherlands. And we succeeded.”
Why is WELL so important?
According to Dick, the current situation with coronavirus is a springboard to more attention for health. “There are reports that record how much damage, for example, particulate matter causes in your lungs. This in turn affects the number of coronavirus deaths. I hope that we will get through the crisis quickly, but that we will also take far-reaching measures when it comes to health. In addition, a revolution in our thinking is required, so that health aspects become generally accepted. Designers, technical installation consultants, contractors and all other parties involved must be made aware of the fact that buildings must be healthy. After all, the techniques needed to make healthier buildings already exist. It’s only a matter of mindset.”
The health of buildings and homes is impacting us more than ever, and coronavirus only underlines that! WELL provides guidance on where to invest for the health, well-being and productivity of employees, lessees and occupants. CFP is going to put a lot of effort into WELL, in combination with BREEAM, energy and circularity. Of course, there will also be an online tool so that you can implement WELL efficiently, rapidly and on your own.
– Bram Adema, CEO van CFP Green Buildings
An example: schools
Schools are a striking example. Dick: “There’s a shortage of talent in the Netherlands. But classrooms are totally unsuitable for exceptional performance. The air is of poor quality, the acoustics are inadequate and the lighting and power supply leave much to be desired in many schools. It then becomes even more distressing when you look at the students who have to take their final exams in a gymnasium or auditorium. This is a really unsuitable space, often without ventilation. And if you know what the CO2 level does to your brain, it’s just irresponsible. At the most important moment, when pupils need to deliver a top performance, we put them in the worst conditions. We don’t do that to Olympic athletes, do we?”
Cooperation and updating of regulations are necessary
Dick emphasises the importance of cooperation. Only when different parties work together do we get buildings healthier. “This may include cooperation between the government, health insurers, real estate practitioners and consultants. But how do you achieve that? With up-to-date regulations! Take, for example, the Buildings Decree. Health is only a very small part of this, even though 2.3 million children live in very bad homes with mould, mildew and damp. This can cause many diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, etc. Why aren’t there any regulations to prevent this? We have to tackle this matter.”
“First of all, awareness must be increased. Five years ago, I didn’t know much myself. In addition, I hope that there will be new legislation in the future. Because every human being has the right to a healthy environment in which to live and work. People need to become aware of what’s going on. When finding a workplace, they should consider whether it is a safe workplace. Fortunately, more and more employers are starting to see this.”
We need to shout louder! We must demand a greater focus on health! This is the right time. We are currently in a health crisis and health needs to be given more priority!
Tips for companies
Finally, Dick has a number of tips for businesses that want to start working immediately on the health of their building:
- Increase ventilation: Apply the correct filters in air treatment units. And for buildings without heating and ventilation systems, simply open windows to let in more air.
- Check your air filters: Find out which air filters are in an air treatment system. Such systems come with a cheap filter as standard. You can often replace these with a much better filter quite cheaply.
- Improve the workplace: introduce standing desks, so that the working posture is improved.
- Healthy Lunch: make sure you have enough healthy food for lunch.
- Healthy investments: invest money only in healthy and energy-efficient buildings.