To anyone who’s ever left work with a headache after spending the entire day in a flourescent-lit office with poor ventilation, it should come as no surprise that interior spaces can make you feel sick.
What might come as a shock, though, is that once you’re safely home, you might not feel much better. From cloudy drinking water to chemicals released by your furniture, carpeting and painted walls, your home might not be as hazard-free as you hope. As a result, experts say, you might suffer from additional stress, anxiety or tiredness.
Thanks to new standards slowly being adapted by architects and designers, you may soon have a remedy. It’s a good thing, too, since most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors.
The new WELL rating system awards points for including design elements like baffling that masks sound and lighting that echoes circadian rhythms. The headquarters of the building of the American Society of Interior Designers in Washington, D.C., recently became one the first to receive platinum certification in the relatively new rating system.
The WELL building standard overlaps with the more established Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) sustainability goals, but focuses more intently on “core concepts that have been scientifically proven to affect human health and wellness,” says Rick Fedrizzi, Chairman & CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the administrator of the program.
So far, the WELL standard and others like it have mostly been applied to commercial and industrial spaces—promising better workplaces for all. A recent study by a team at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health backs up the claims. After collecting data in 10 cities, researchers found that workers who spent their days in buildings with some sort of green certification scored more than 25 percent higher on cognitive tasks than did their peers in non-certified buildings. These workers also reported fewer headaches and breathing issues, and measurements taken while they slept revealed that they enjoyed more restful nights than their counterparts in “sicker” buildings.
Your home can benefit from well building strategies–certified or not. To introduce the principles into your home consider these five easy steps, as suggested by Harvard’s For Health web site:
- Ahhh, fresh air: Choose furniture, fabric and finishes with low chemical emissions. These are often marked as organic, low volatile organic compounds (VOC), or green. We recommend Parachute for bedding, bath, tabletop and more.
- Drip, drip, sneeze: Regularly check moisture-prone areas, such as where your roof meets the wall, or bathrooms and closets, for evidence of mold. Where there’s mold, breathing problems may soon follow. Most big box home improvement stores carry mold test kits such as this one.
- Quiet on your set: Add sound-absorbing pieces or consider a white noise machine if city honks and drills set your teeth on edge. We recommend Zilenzio.
- Drink up: Install a filtration system or use a carafe equipped with purifying charcoal for better water quality and taste. We recommend: The Big Berkey Water Filtration System
- Light fantastic: Rather than use overhead lighting, add task lighting to reduce glare and eyestrain. Make an effort to optimize natural daylight. Herman Miller has a good guide. We recommend Herman Miller’s Flute Personal Light.
WELL currently offers pilot programs for a range of projects—including multi-family, residential, retail, restaurant and commercial kitchen, and education—to receive certification.