Contextually, health and wellbeing for the property market originated in the United States with the formation of Delos Living. Delos is the brain child of Paul Scialla, a Wall Street bond trader who built a highly successful career at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
It was while on the trading floor, that he noticed the rising trend in the number of successful companies with a new and innovative “philanthropic” approach to capitalism. Companies that that placed a “Do No Harm” component at the core their strategic business model. They were corporates concentrating on building communities of supporters who would become fiercely loyal customers. For Scialla, this new business model wrapped around an ethical construct needed a new property model. A “DO NO HARM” property model. And so, began Delos, an organisation built to codify a healthy building estate for the ethically aware organisations who own and occupy them.
Meanwhile, David Gottfried, founder of the LEED and USGBC was also becoming an advocate for healthy buildings. David’s wife is Dr. Sara Gottfried a medical expert in human endocrinology, the systems that control hormonal balance - providing the seed for David's interest into how built environments might impact human hormonal health. Hormones systems are the on-board command and control department for the body. But they are sensitive to environmental influences where they can become massively disrupted by the quality of the air we breathe, the food we consume, the stress in our jobs, and even the daily amount of exposure to daylight that we get, or don't get.
The links between buildings and the health and wellbeing of occupants became more compelling as more research highlighted the intrinsic interfaces between them. Now, almost a decade later, the previously tenuous, or anecdotal theories are a thing of the past. Scialla and Delos has invested considerable sums in bringing the best medical and property expertise together to support a new WELL Build certified standard to the built environment.
WELL Build Concepts
WELL Build is built around 7 concepts.
Air : Ensuring clean filtered air, free of external and internal pollutants.
Water : Promoting water quality, free from pollutants, chemical biocides, with good taste. Also controlling humidity and prevention of flooding.
Nourishment: Promoting access to good food, healthy diet and portion sizes.
Light :designing to improve access to daylight, creating Vitamin D and promoting better sleep.
Fitness: Developing buildings that encourage more movement and less sitting. Encouraging at work health programmes.
Comfort: Connecting temperature to established health benefits in controlling blood sugars and diabetes risks.
Mind: Providing spaces that allow occupants to protect and manage mental health and performance.
Accompanying the rapid development of the WELL Build Standard is of an uberisation of research into the health and wellbeing effects of “four walls and a roof”. And it’s not just Delos and Paul Scialla who are on the case. The big pharmaceutical corporates GSK, Pfizer and Roche are putting large sums of research funding into mobile m-Health.
GSK went to the SXSW conference in Austen, Texas this year to set out the revolutionary potential for mobile technology, big data analytics, cloud computing and biosensors. They are looking at ways in which new mobile platforms present meaningful ways to engage with patients, expand access to clinical trials and improve data-gathering for research.
Conscious that new technologies and social media will make it possible for patients to participate in certain types of medical research remotely, while sharing feedback or data, instantly. The data is collected virtually and without interruption to the patients’ daily life, using mobile phones, biosensors, wearables, cloud computing and more. Significantly reducing trips to a clinic or hospital for those who have medical advice with them 24/7.
GSK paired up with the McLaren F1 racing team to pioneer innovative technologies to monitor millions of pieces of data from driver’s biometrics as they compete in the hyper physical and stressful conditions of the race car's cockpit. The next step is to transfer this learning from innovation in driver health monitoring to collecting routine patient, or drug research subject's information in the least invasive way possible via their mobile devices.
AI in Wellbeing
Meanwhile tech giants Google, are investing equally large sums into the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Soon your phone will have access to a powerful intelligence of an android brain in the cloud. We know AI will replace some occupations as it takes hold over the next decade or so. One of those jobs could be your General Practitioner GP. While most of us prefer to see a friendly face in the consulting room, rather than an algorithm, tell us what is wrong with us, it is likely that the cost advantages of AI outweigh the social ones for already creaking health budgets.
It’s not a big step to think that the proliferation of m-Health when coupled with AI will bring with it research into the effects that new or existing buildings are imposing on our endocrinological systems. The definition of sick building syndrome may be about to be re-defined.
"The definition of sick building syndrome may be about to be re-defined."
Conscious that the device in our pocket will revolutionise what we know about our environment and how it is affecting our health the way forward is largely predictable. In less than a decade it is likely that a good many of us, will be using wearable or intravenous devices to guide our day to day health choices including where we work, who we work with and how much adverse impact we allow our work choices to have on our health outcomes.
Sound far fetched? Well in a similar vain to sustainability, health and wellbeing can be characterised to be different things to differing audiences. Likewise, we can expect m-Health to have more important traction with some audiences more than others. For a rising generation of millennials, the concept of allowing themselves to be more connected, more aware, and forming the view that responsibility for health resides with the individual to be managed is a tangible one. Millennials already accept that health is not what happens when you are ill, for them health happens where and how you are living now. They will be compliant, even comforted, by the notion that their health is being tracked from day to day, hour by hour by an explosion of wearables connected to algorithms and AI applications.
Future for Health and Wellbeing
The Well Building Standard is being developed to intercept this potentially large market as it arrives. As an authoritative standard, it has much to say on new more onerous criteria to be met at all stages of the procurement process. In many ways, the standard represents a ratcheting up of sustainability standards, that all but the most exemplar developments could find a business case for. Those in well-building know that the business case is not to be found in the property deal, but in the future productivity savings made by employees connected to live monitoring data streams that are showing them the benefits.
So, if health and wellbeing is an innately human characteristic. If we are all in a permanently on-line state, working too hard for too long, in buildings that were built for a different age and diverse ways of working. How we work, and how buildings are designed will need to change to reflect the new market demands of a population more in tune to the mood music of their bodies, and more capable of identifying the people, situations and environments that having adverse effects on their life expectancy and general karma.
This need for healthy buildings and cities is clear.
"We often hear people talk about the concept of 'uberization,' where a new technology completely turns an industry on its head and forces us to rethink the way things have always been done. No industry will remain untouched by these forces.”
Klaus Schwab—World Economic Forum