Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: New Building Guidelines Focus on Wellness of People

By Ray Carney

Physical workplace is typically mentioned as one of the top three factors affecting performance and job satisfaction. Personnel costs significantly outweigh the costs for design, construction, maintenance, and operations. Improving the workplace environment can reduce the largest line item in the 30-year costs of a building — the personnel — offering a meaningful return on investment.

To obtain these types of returns and productivity increases, consider adhering to an established set of guidelines focused on people, like the WELL Building Standard. WELL is an evidence-based system for managing the performance of building features that impact productivity and occupant health. WELL is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. WELL focuses on more than 100 specific features centered around seven core concepts: Air, Water, Light, Nourishment, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. The features are based on seven years of scientific research conducted by a private company, Delos.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we spend nearly 90 percent of our time indoors, exposed to artificial light, breathing air of questionable quality, with little in the way of noise reduction. Currently, only one in four U.S. workers are in optimal workplace environments, according to Gensler’s 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey. These factors have a real impact on a corporation’s clients and bottom line.

Placing people at the heart of design, construction, operations and development decisions, adds meaningful value to real estate assets, generates savings in personnel costs, and enhances the human experience, health and well-being. WELL Standards are like a nutrition label for your building providing transparency on the quality of the built environment.

Once a project has demonstrated that it meets the minimum criteria, it is certified as a Silver, Gold or Platinum project. The first certified spaces emerged in 2014 and today there are approximately 850 projects registered to obtain certification and only 123 projects certified.

The first project in the Washington, D.C. area to obtain Certification was American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) headquarters in mid-2017. Not too far behind was Falls Church’s own Markon Solutions, a nationally recognized management consulting firm with expertise in facilities, security, finance, and training. Markon was the first WELL certified space in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the 48th space certified globally. Markon is located on the second floor of the Tax Analysts building on South Maple Avenue. Last month another corporation in Reston, DPR Construction, was awarded Gold Certification as well. The trend of creating productive and health workplace in the area continues to increase.

The process to become WELL certified is five steps: registration, documentation, performance verification, certification, and recertification. Unlike other standards, WELL requires on-site testing and verification and is an ongoing certification that requires annual compliance and recertification every three years. The verification process is conducted by a third party and can range from one to three days of testing.

The Mission of Markon is to create a path to success for our employees and clients. Our definition of leadership is creating an environment where people can be their absolute best. That mission and definition are the reasons that Markon pursued WELL certification — we looked to create the most productive and healthy workplace possible. To become WELL Certified, Markon paid a 12-percent premium in one-time construction costs, but that cost is far exceeded by the research that shows a 20-percent productivity gain of our team, which we realize on a daily basis. It took a strong team of experts, WELL Accredited Professionals (WELL APs), that Markon grew from within to deliver this project.

Wellness features at Markon include circadian lighting, or lighting that closely matches the sun and moon light, sit-stand desks, to promote activity and combat obesity, and all desks have a daylight view. Markon was also required to submit a biophilia plan in order to obtain the certification. Biophilia is the theory that humans have a longing to be connected to nature. Markon installed plants throughout the space, a natural wood conference table, and bamboo flooring in their pantry area.

Organizations are finding that WELL certification adds to the productivity and happiness of the company’s employees. This increase in productivity ensures that spaces are maximized to meet the organization’s mission. WELL certified spaces seek to empower the creation of healthy workplaces by enhancing occupant health and quality of life.


Ray Carney is vice president at Markon Solutions in Falls Church.