For a Safe and Healthy Community,

Your Buildings Can Get a Checkup By Sara Wildberger

Building Institute, wants you to think about a fact: You spend about 90 percent of your life indoors. And she’s dedicated to making that 90 percent a healthier experience. While there are multiple standards for


sustainability, cleanliness, and function of various parts of a building, the International WELL Building Institute’s WELL standard takes a broader view, encompassing factors that affect individual health, community health, and environmental health. It tracks indoor air quality and waste management, access to healthy food and stress reduction, ergonomic features and proper lighting, and more. “WELL is a roadmap for improving the

quality of our air, water, and light with in- spired design decisions that not only keep us connected but facilitate a good nightʼs sleep, support our mental health, and help us do our best work every day,” says the organization. With a PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Gray was the first public health professional to become a LEED Accredited Profession- al—a building sustainability credential more typically held by architects and builders. The organization includes senior living

communities in its mission and has been working with Welltower real estate invest- ment trust (REIT), which has a longtime sustainability and health commitment. Welltower is a partner in the new Sunrise at East 56th community—a luxury high-rise in Manhattan with multiple technologies for safety and health—which is under consider- ation for a WELL v2 rating. This is an excerpt from a longer interview.


hitney Austin Gray, PhD, LEED AP, WELL AP, senior vice presi- dent at the International WELL

Q. What was the motivation for the WELL certification? A. Historically, architects and designers were not required to have training in health as part of their degree requirements, and in public health, design was not a required course. The WELL building standard becomes

a tool to help health professionals speak de- sign, and design professionals speak health.

Q. How can a building promote well-being? A. We know that on average we spend 90 percent of our time doors. I think lately it feels like even more time than that. If you're 50 years old, that's 45 years of your life. So what are you breathing? What access

do you have to nature? Are you constantly in this sort of beige-on-beige-on-beige envi- ronment? Do you have spaces that encour- age movement? The WELL Building credential becomes

a tool for your community to understand how to incorporate health strategies and preventive health measures. It becomes a people-first community—it puts people before places.

Q. What are communities doing to improve lighting? Why is it important? A. Lighting is more than being able to see in a space. It creates light for health for this vulnerable population, who are particularly sensitive to circadian rhythms. Many peo- ple donʼt realize is that your photoreceptors canʼt tell the difference in light sources, which is sort of a quirky evolutionary issue. It's very important that our building

professionals and the design of the space incorporate that circadian lighting to help regulate sleep rhythms. There’s lot of re-

Thought Leader Profile

Whitney Austin Gray, PhD, LEED AP, WELL AP Senior vice president, International WELL Building Institute

search on access to natural light; we know the spectral quality and temperature that's needed for peak human function. If you cannot get that outdoor light, we

then need to look at artificial ways to in- corporate it. People need access to the right color, temperature, and quality of the light for a certain period of the day. We have parameters for how to do it with artificial light and how indoor lighting can be timed to adjust to the right kind of lighting at dif- ferent times of day. Morning light is more blue. Afternoon

light has that warm, rose color. People don't realize how much impact those different temperatures colors have on them. That blue light tells the body to reduce produc- tion of melatonin. The warm, incandescent light can create that tired feeling.

Q. Have the features for the certification changed since COVID-19? A. We had lots of clients saying they wanted to proceed with the WELL certification, but that could take many months—and the peo- ple in their buildings wanted to know what they’re doing for safety today, right away. We adapted the WELL Building Stan- dard in response to the pandemic by cre-

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