green star

GlobeSt: Green’s Next Phase: Occupant Health

GlobeSt, February 18, 2016
By Paul Bubny

CBRE and Delos, developer of the WELL Building Standard, have formed an alliance to roll out the standard to CBRE-managed properties, has learned EXCLUSIVELY.

—“It’s clear to us that we’re at a critical stage,” says Dave Pogue, global director of corporate responsibility at CBRE. “We have made the buildings better. The real estate industry has become greener. This, however, is the next view, where we’re going to make our employees healthier. We’ve focused on the buildings physically; the next iteration is the occupants.”

With a view toward focusing on the health and well-being of those who work, learn and live in indoor spaces, CBRE has established a strategic alliance with New York City-based Delos to roll out Delos’ WELL Building Standard to a minimum of 100 properties worldwide that CBRE manages or is associated with. has learned exclusively that the alliance also entails CBRE professionally accrediting 50 of its own employees through the WELL Accredited Professional program.

Additionally, CBRE will become a founding member of the Well Living Lab, reportedly the world’s first human-centered research lab designed to study the interaction between human health and well-being and the indoor environment. A collaboration between Delos and the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, the Well Living Lab will begin launching studies this coming April. Pogue will also become a member of the Delos advisory board.

The product of seven years’ research and development, the WELL program was pioneered by Delos, is administered by the International WELL Building Institute and is third-party certified through IWBI’s collaboration with Green Business Certification Inc., the certification body for the US Green Building Council’s LEED program. To date, it has enrolled nearly 30 million square feet of building projects in 14 countries. CBRE’s association with the program dates back to 2013, when it became the world’s first company to achieve WELL Certification for a commercial office space with the opening of its global corporate headquarters in Los Angeles.

Following CBRE’s pioneering implementation of the WELL standard in its own offices, Pogue and Delos founder and CEO Paul Scialla began talking at length about the future of the standard, and in particular “a broad industry rollout,” Scialla tells Pogue says the initial implementation at CBRE’s headquarters “created such a buzz among our employees, and we found the same level of enthusiasm among our clients. It was clear to us that what Paul and his team had created was something of great interest, and the timing was perfect.

A decade ago, CBRE began “actively and aggressively” pursuing Energy Star implementation across its managed portfolio. “That was one of the first pieces of the whole green-building movement,” says Pogue. It has since undertaken similar initiatives with the LEED for Existing Buildings program and the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark program for portfolios.

With this experience under its collective belt, CBRE plans a similar approach to its alliance with Delos. In some ways, says Pogue, WELL is “very much like LEED: there are specific steps to be taken, paperwork to be filled out.”

However, Pogue notes that there are differences when talking about physical beings as opposed to physical space. With a program such as Energy Star, for example, “there was an easily understood economic piece: if you replace a 100-watt light bulb with a 40-watt or 17-watt LED, you’re going to get a specific reduction in energy usage and a specific cost outcome. Those connections are more difficult to gauge in matters of health or wellness.” The Living Lab effort is particularly relevant here: “We’re going to have to prove economic outcomes as well as physiological and psychological ones.”

One metric that could figure prominently in making an economic case for the program is employee retention. “Millennials have effectively grown up their entire lives with a health and wellness version of any consumer product,” Scialla says. “You’ve got an entire generation that’s used to making decisions based on a wellness offering versus a non-wellness offering. With that in their mindset, spaces that are WELL-certified are going to be more appealing to that generation.”

Scialla tells that the CBRE/Delos alliance is taking “a very careful approach to the 10-year-old industry question, going from point A to point B: do healthier buildings lead to more productivity? Our thinking is that we need to deconstruct that logic, and we need to look at this every step of the way.”

That deconstructed sequence, he says, begins by going from a different point A to point B, to wit: “Do healthier building practices mean healthier spaces? Point B to point C: do healthier spaces mean healthier people? And then point C to point D: are healthier people more productive and more engaged employees? Because the WELL building standard is an output- and performance-based methodology, based on factual evidence and independent third-party validation of that standard, we can really start to answer that point-A-to-point-B question differently. If the question is do healthier building practices mean healthier spaces, that’s still abstract—we don’t know. Is a WELL-certified space a healthier space? That’s something we can start to put factual yeses to.