Session 4: The Biology, Physics and Epistemology of Wellness Design

Wednesday, June 17th at 1pm ET

Summary: The “Holy Grail” of Wellness design requires complex parametric analysis and applied research for justification / verification of health benefits. This session will examine human biology and building physics, how they are currently understood and applied, and why we must necessarily engage in testing and evolving this knowledge. 

Session Details: As the environmental leader David W. Orr suggests, the standard for ecological design is neither efficiency nor productivity but health. Our industry is quickly shifting to one that demands health-related data analytics into pre- and post-design stages. This shift is fundamentally changing the methods of design, delivery and verification. HDR, Delos and the 428 Minneapolis (WELL Gold) will provide insight into how to integrate health into design by examining the biology, physics, and measured impacts of a WELL Building. 
First, we will examine the basic WELL concept areas and how they can affect our human biology through impacts on the respiratory, auditory, integumentary, skeletal, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. 
Second, we will discuss the constraints that design puts on incorporating research on human biology in buildings into practice. HDR will illustrate Computational Design and HDR’s parametric Health and Wellness Tool that is used in early design stages to verify health metrics associated with factors such as light, acoustics, comfort and biophilia. The tools will be presented with project case studies and a description of how they are changing the standard design engagement: 
The 428 Minneapolis client will present the design and business philosophy behind the WELL Goldproject. The 428 project is WELL Gold certified project that facilitates wellness-focused, flexible workplaces. From a developer’s perspective, the idea of wellness requires justification to entice tenants and achieve a return on investment. The 428 client will discuss the business case for WELL Certification for the project. 
Using the 428 building as a launching point, we will dive in to methods used to evaluate health impacts of the built environment, as well as inherent tensions between design research and biomedical/public health research. Several specific examples will be based on empirical data collected by Delos / the International Well Building Institute and HDR Research. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand which parametric design tools can be used to evaluate wellness indicators in early stages of design much like that of an early stage energy model. 
  • Hear directly from the Developer of the 428 Minneapolis project to learn how wellness design elements are sold and justified to the building end users. 
  • Understand how a Health and Wellness tool was applied to a WELLv1 Gold Certified project to evaluate wellness metrics and WELLv1 Building compliance in early stages 


Colin Rohlfing
Director of Sustainable Development
at HDR Inc. 

Angela Loder
Vice President, Research at IWBI 

Jeri Brittin
Director of Research at HDR   


Contact the Greenbuild Program team at [email protected] for more information regarding registration and/or getting involved in Greenbuild's Digital Education Series as a Sponsor or Speaker.