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The IWBI Special Report Chapter Series: “What Guides Us: Evidence, Equity, Education”

SOURCE: International WELL Building Institute


In early September, IWBI released an in-depth report that lays out research approaches and specific operational strategies as the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares for acute health threats into the future. Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery: An IWBI Special Report integrates proven strategies from the WELL Building Standard (WELL) and actionable insights garnered from IWBI staff and nearly 600 members of the Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections.

Over the next few months, we will repost a chapter from the report every week to help highlight specific themes and insights. The IWBI Special Report Chapter Series starts with the report’s opening letter from IWBI President and CEO Rachel Hodgdon, alongside the opening chapter, “What Guides Us: Evidence, Equity, Education.”

Excerpt republished from: Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery: An IWBI Special Report

Health is a Human Right: Letter from IWBI President and CEO Rachel Hodgdon

“Health is a human right. We say this unequivocally, a statement both immutable and nonnegotiable. But sadly, we continue to witness the global fallout when that right is threatened and attacked.

“As the world continues to grapple with the tragic impacts of COVID-19, we see in sharp focus the full brunt of this global pandemic with all its deep and cascading consequences across societies everywhere. At the end of August 2021, the pandemic had claimed 4.55 million lives. It had infected over 219 million people. It has exposed gaps in our public health system and support infrastructure globally, magnifying and exacerbating faults in our social and economic foundations. It has laid bare long-ignored inequities and structural and systemic health disparities. It has shaken and weakened institutions thought to be unassailable.

“It has also transformed a shared simple truth into a thunderous and synchronous cry around the world—that health is our most precious resource.

“It’s been our honor to join with all of you—a diverse group of leaders from across our global community—and lend our collective knowledge and expertise to help make a difference in this fight. Through this concerted and collaborative effort, we have taken a significant step forward. Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery: An IWBI Special Report holds fast to our focus on delivering actionable insights and evidence-based solutions and providing tools, strategies and perspectives to move us forward faster.

“Today we reaffirm our conviction that health is a human right. And with renewed resolve, we stand together to protect it, to nourish it and, most importantly, to ensure it is a right shared by all. Because even in the throes of this heartrending fight against the defining public health crisis of our time, we remain dedicated to a vision for a healthier and better tomorrow."
- Rachel Hodgdon, IWBI President and CEO

Introduction: Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery: An IWBI Special Report

You could summarize the following pages, too simply, in one sentence: COVID-19 has changed everything.

It certainly is true at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). At the beginning of 2020, we were preparing to release WELL v2, the updated version of the WELL Building Standard (WELL). It was to culminate a two-years-long process that involved a six-month public comment period generating hundreds of comments; the review and feedback from more than 150 WELL Concept Advisors; thousands more comments during the final stakeholder review; and eight published addenda to provide clarifications and strategies supporting the implementation of the WELL v2 pilot in more than 3,300 projects representing 413 million square feet across 54 countries.

But watching the pandemic unfold around the world, we knew we could not continue as planned. In the face of a global health crisis, health expertise could save lives, and that had to be our priority. So, in April 2020, we convened the IWBI Task Force on COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections, composed of 16 globally acknowledged thought leaders in the role of co-chairs, and nearly 600 professional and market leaders and experts—virologists, epidemiologists and public health professionals along with real estate professionals, architects, designers and manufacturers—from more than 30 countries and together we crowd-sourced thousands of comments during a 40-day sprint.

That process made clear the ramifications of COVID-19 on our work and what we could do to help. So, after months of questions and study, conversations with experts and extensive research, we collectively worked towards two key goals:

  • Assess ways in which the WELL Building Standard can be further enhanced to best support prevention and preparedness, resiliency and recovery in this critical moment and into the future.

  • Inform Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery: An IWBI Special Report as a resource for better integrating actionable insights and proven strategies into how individuals, companies and communities manage both their buildings and their organizations.

The first goal was met in September 2020 with the graduation of WELL v2 out of pilot.

The second goal is the completion and presentation of this special report as an accessible, multidisciplinary foundation for action.

…Running through these sections and all our work to promote the health and well-being of people through the power of place are three principles that emerged as a centerline for our work: evidence, equity, education.

Facts matter—because they inform our actions.

That’s why the WELL Building Standard, the foundation of this report, is evidence-based. It seeks to provide the most effective interventions that are grounded in research and data; to help our partners evaluate performance and success; and to assure the people who step into these spaces that each is objectively reviewed, performance tested and rewarded for the achievements.

Of course, we know that where the evidence points us evolves as new studies and findings emerge. But when it comes to health it’s important to have the best available information to inform the best possible decisions right now and to keep refining that information over time, encouraging all to continue their pursuit of well-being long into the future.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has shed light on stark and deep-seated inequities throughout our societies, inequities that exacerbate the spread of the virus. It stands to reason then that equity can be a powerful force for health—and buildings that promote human health will be a force for equity.

Better indoor air quality, for instance, means everyone inside breathes better—and experiences the benefits—regardless of their age, race, gender identity or sexual orientation, no matter if they are working in a corner office or at the lobby’s front desk, learning in a classroom or residing in a senior living community.

It’s beyond clear that public health is a public good. Knowing health and well-being are what all people need to thrive, we believe that an ethic of people-first places is a key solution in our shared goal of building a healthier future.

This is not just a novel virus—it’s been a novel chapter in our history. Many of us attended our first virtual classes and telehealth appointments. Many more of us worked from home, schooled our kids from home and reacquainted ourselves with our kitchen appliances as we locked down for extended periods. We learned about wearing masks and physical distancing. We figured out how to adapt to a situation that very few people have ever experienced. We found that public health literacy is a survival skill.

Even as COVID-19 and its Delta variant continue to wreak havoc, we have no doubt that new challenges will continue to emerge in the months and years ahead. But we believe the surest response to constant change is continuous education. That amounts to always learning and sharing that knowledge with our partners and communities to inform and influence the collective work ahead.

Access the report and read the full Introduction here.

Tweet me: .@WELLCertified begins their Special Report Chapter Series with an opening letter from IWBI President and CEO Rachel Hodgdon, alongside the opening chapter, “What Guides Us: Evidence, Equity, Education”

KEYWORDS: IWBI, Rachel Hodgdon

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