WELL Building’s Impact on Student Success

  • Dec 22, 2016

While college can be a time of learning and fun it can be also play havoc on students’ health. Academic and social pressures can cause stress. Lack of sleep, unhealthy eating, too much time spent indoors and sitting for long periods of time can all affect student health which can impact their performance.

The American College Health Association’s 2015 Fall survey of almost 20,000 students revealed that more than 30 percent of students said stress had led to lower grades or dropped courses; 24 percent said anxiety had the same impact and 20 percent said sleep difficulties hurt their performance.

All of these factors can have an impact on student success and retention. The fact that college students are stressed is hardly new news. Nor is it unexpected. Activities like yoga and nutrition classes can help, but the campus built environment can play a big role too.

The LEED standard for “green” buildings focuses on building performance while the WELL Building Standard® is the first standard of its kind to focus solely on the health and well-being of the building occupants. Launched in 2014, the WELL Building Standard is grounded in solid science, the culmination of seven years of medical research in collaboration with leading doctors, scientists, architects and other wellness professionals.

Put another way: green buildings focus on reducing impact to the environment; well buildings focus on enhancing the health of the people inside them. The WELL Building Standard is like a nutrition label for your building, providing transparency on the quality of the built environment.

The WELL Pilot Standard for Educational Facilities addresses important issues specific to institutions of learning such as focus, creativity, critical thinking and socializing with requirements in seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Specifically in the college environment these requirements can translate in practical ways:

  • Indoor pollutants can lead to significant health issues including nausea, headaches, asthma, respiratory irritation and allergies that can affect concentration and retention of information. In designing schools and universities we can avoid known pollutants in paint, furniture and fixtures, as well as design for optimal ventilation rates. Clean drinking water is critical to optimum health. The Clean Water Act has regulated the quality of water since 1974, nevertheless, drinking water contamination continues to be a persistent problem and clean sources are not always available. The WELL Building Standard seeks to preserve water resources and enhance the quality for human consumption through proper access and filtration.
  • “Sitting is the new “smoking” associated with a number of adverse health conditions including increased risk of cancer, weight gain, fatigue and back discomfort according to the WELL Building Standard research. The Standard promotes physical activity policies and strategies that encourage physical activity to combat obesity and chronic diseases. Simple design strategies such as incorporating non-static desks can encourage movement during class. This approach not only facilitates student movement, but encourages collaboration and real-world community learning. A circle of chairs for a full-class discussion or six tables for small group projects can be easily configured within the same space to support varied learning and teaching styles.

By placing students at the heart of design and construction we can add meaningful value not only to student’s lives, but also to colleges themselves to attract student for years to come.