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International WELL Building Institute™: Anja Mikic

Anja ​supports the Standard Development team in the continuous development of the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL). As the WELL Nourishment concept lead, she leads translation of research into evidence-based, implementable design and policy interventions that advance the health and nutritional well-being of individuals in buildings and communities around the world. She also oversees the IWBI WELL concept advisory effort and manages a global, multidisciplinary group of Nourishment advisors. Prior to joining IWBI, she served as a research assistant at the New York Obesity Research Center examining the effects of sleep and meal timing on energy balance, hunger hormones and insulin resistance.  

A California native, Anja earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of California, Los Angeles where she studied human biology and society. She received her​ Master of Science degree in human nutrition from Columbia University. She​ is both a WELL AP and LEED Green Associate and happily serves as WELL Faculty.

Anja, can you tell us about WELL and your role within the organisation?
At the International WELL Building Institute, our goal is to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive. Our WELL Building Standard (WELL) is the leading global standard for buildings, communities and organisations seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.

In my role as the WELL Nourishment concept lead, I work to translate decades of nutrition and health research into evidence-based, implementable design and policy interventions that can improve the nutritional practices of individuals in buildings and communities around the world. I also have the privilege of leading a global, multidisciplinary group of advisors who are experts in nutrition and nourishment practices and who help advance WELL and the future of this growing movement.

In addition to measurable outcomes coming from WELL projects’ post-occupancy data, it’s exciting to see WELL serving as a catalyst for broader change. We’re hearing from WELL projects that the positive behavioural changes people have gained through nudges at the workplace – choosing fruit as a snack over sweets, or increasing their intake of vegetables because they’re so accessible – are leading to healthy habits at home and beyond. 

WELL is the first evidence-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring building features that impact health and well-being. Can you explain further?
WELL was born out of the sustainability movement and the application of green rating systems around the world. As our Chairman and CEO Rick Fedrizzi has said, we are experiencing “the second wave of sustainability,” which brings to the fore a human-centred approach to the way we design, construct and operate our spaces. While green building focused on energy efficiency and minimising the environmental impact of buildings, WELL has expanded this to focus on the potential of buildings to actively promote human health as a complement to planetary health. The time has come where our buildings can go beyond “doing no harm:” they can actually enhance the way we live and our quality of life. 

Incorporating well-being into our buildings is not just a ‘nice-to-have’, it is a social responsibility and an economic one, too. How do you relate to this statement?
Every day we look for opportunities to deliver the positive social and economic impact that is offered by the promise of WELL. It is our strong belief that we can demonstrate to our global community that business has the transformative power to do well by doing good. The strategies that we advocate to support human health must go hand-in-hand with actions that improve education, reduce inequality, catalyse economic growth, confront climate change and protect our environment. That’s why we’re excited to align WELL v2 with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and demonstrate how the SDGs are supported by WELL’s work. The WELL Building Standard recognises the connections between human health, the health of our planet and the strength of socioeconomic institutions by offering a balanced, integrated framework of strategies that, while supporting the health of individuals within buildings, also seek to enable the wider community and surrounding environment to thrive. 

Through our WELL Portfolio program, which enables organisations to apply WELL at scale, we are supporting companies to advance their commitment to corporate responsibility and accelerate the positive health impacts of WELL through a portfolio level approach. 

What are the 10 concepts of WELL?
WELL takes a holistic and integrative approach to addressing health and well-being in the places and spaces where we spend most of our time. The WELL v2 pilot, the latest version of the WELL Building Standard, focuses on 10 concepts, or categories, of building performance that can contribute to a healthier space:  Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community. Each concept is comprised of features with distinct health and well-being intents that projects can pursue towards WELL Certification. 

In practical terms, strategies address our most basic human needs through performance metrics such as air and water quality, lighting and comfort. WELL also incorporates more nuanced measures such as how the environment can promote healthy eating, physical activity and cognitive health. We’re extremely optimistic about the ways that creating a healthy organisational culture and shaping indoor spaces where people are excited to work, live and learn can enable the people we care about to fulfil their potential. 

What does 2020 have in store?
The launch of public commentpaves the way for the graduation of the WELL v2 rating system out of the pilot phase. After the six-month public comment period wraps up, we’ll reconcile all of the insights and incorporate these perspectives into a final version of WELL v2 that has been thoroughly shaped by extensive contributions from our customers and advisors and reviewed by our governance body.

We look forward to continuing to collaborate with organisations on the leading edge of the movement to improve global health through WELL Portfolio. We're also launching new advisories to involve experts from our global community to continue to contribute to and shape the future of WELL. In addition to our new Research and Industrial advisories, we'll be kicking off the WELL Airport Sector advisory, which will help ensure that WELL positively impacts the health and well-being of airport staff passengers.