Kamyar Vaghar, president of the New York City–based International WELL Building InstituteTM(IWBITM), is convinced that instituting the global WELL Building StandardTM(WELLTM) will generate significant health and quality-of-life impacts on the social costs of occupational illnesses, healthcare and absenteeism in buildings that house various living and work environments. Today, he welcomed the HUMANITI megaproject’s adherence to this new approach, which aims to put humans at the centre of real-estate and built-environment design decisions.
“Our homes are the most important spaces for ourselves and our families,” said Mr. Vaghar, “and making them healthy is something all of us do naturally. The WELL Multi-family Residential Certification gives residents a solid foundation from which they can build out their interior spaces to protect and advance the health and well-being of the people who matter most. We’re excited to see HUMANITI make this commitment to bring this important concept to life in Montreal.”
Mathieu Duguay, President of COGIR Immobilier and promoter of HUMANITI, noted that a Conference Board of Canada study estimated absenteeism costs for the Canadian economy at $16.6 billion in 2012 alone. In a similar vein, the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montreal has cited research results from Chrysalis Performance Inc. showing that workplace stress accounts for 19% of absenteeism costs, 40% of staff turnover costs, 55% of employee assistance program (EAP) costs, 60% of work accidents, 10% of prescription drug insurance plan costs, and 100% of stress-related lawsuits.
“While these statistics mostly pertain to workplaces, in our case the health of our customers and tenants is fundamental,” Mr. Duguay says. “That’s why we are seeking WELL Multifamily Residential Certification for HUMANITI. When our tenants move in, they will find a living environment that’s optimal for their health and wellness. This initial certification push will surely have an impact on all components of the project. The experience will provide valuable input for our actions going forward.”
WELL Multifamily Residential Certification
WELL certification is the first health and wellness standard to harmonize and coexist with LEED certification. As the very first “smart vertical community,” with its residential component targeting WELL certification, HUMANITI will be made up of a hotel with nearly 200 rooms, more than 300 rental housing units and nearly 150 condominiums, along with 60,000 square feet of office space and 15,000 square feet of commercial space. The project will occupy the entire block bound by Viger Avenue and De Bleury, De La Gauchetière and Hermine streets, rounding out Montreal’s Quartier International and providing spectacular views of magnificent Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle.
“Given the fact that occupant health, especially in work environments, has so great an effect on business performance, WELL offers a huge benefit in channelling various favourable conditions and activities while ensuring that these measures are quantified and verified,” explains certification coordinator Réal Migneault, Partner and Sustainable Development Director at Lemay, the architecture firm behind HUMANITI. “Moreover, the awareness component of the certification is a tool to help people in the building develop healthy living habits and reap the benefits. So the advent of WELL is great news, with cumulative effects on all projects obtaining certification that can be expected to bring benefits to all of society,” he adds.
The advantages of a WELL-certified building are many and varied, beginning with the application of strategies and methods aimed at, among other things, maximum reduction of internal sources of air pollution; a water supply of outstanding quality validated by independent laboratory tests; promotion of healthy eating, with nutritional information and elimination of junk food; lighting systems that prevent the effects of glare and visual discomfort; spaces devoted to physical activity, with exercise equipment; as well as design features and artworks throughout the building that contribute to creating a relaxing environment. A further advantage of this certification scheme is that it is scalable, subject to periodic critical assessment and to rating by independent expert laboratories with results guaranteeing that standards are maintained.
“This new and original approach means that real-estate developers and the business community will be more focused on health and wellness concepts,” says Mr. Duguay of COGIR, adding that he believes the HUMANITI project will naturally impose this new trend within the Québec real-estate sector, which is keen to capitalize on the health and quality of life of workers at the very heart of communities.
Carole Handfield, Vice President, Investment, of Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ, a partner in the HUMANITI development, is pleased that her organization is among the leaders in introducing this new process, which could well generate a domino effect in the business world and among real-estate developers, who place the health and well-being of workers and users of all types atop of the list of the criteria guiding the design and execution of new projects.
“This initiative is a great example of Montreal’s leadership not only in Québec and the rest of Canada but across North America, with HUMANITI standing out as the biggest project of its type,” Mr. Duguay continues, emphasizing that the workplace quality-of-life enhancements will have benefits for all of society.
“The business community is getting on board, making human experience and the sharing of societal values a priority,” added the officials from COGIR Immobilier and the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ, which have teamed up to tackle the challenge, with HUMANITI, of building a unique place where living, working, exercise, entertainment and socializing have all been designed to promote users’ physical as well as mental health.
“The transdisciplinary team at Lemay is proud to have contributed to this project from the start, facilitating the integrated design process involving our architecture, interior design, urban planning, and sustainable development teams, and to have had the privilege of coordinating the work to secure both LEED and WELL certification,” Mr. Migneault concludes.
About the International WELL Building InstituteTM
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a public benefit corporation that is leading the movement to promote health and wellness in buildings and communities everywhere. IWBI delivers the cutting-edge WELL Building StandardTM and the WELL Community StandardTM, performance-based systems for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of buildings and communities that impact the health and wellness of the people who live, work, and learn in them. It also supports the growing number of professionals who seek WELL accreditation, as administered by GBCI. www.wellcertified.com
Founded in 1995, Cogir Real Estate is a Québec company with close to 2,700 employees who are passionate about real estate and who work day-in, day-out to satisfy their customers. Its team manages a portfolio valued at some $3.5 billion, consisting of over 150 properties in Québec, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Cogir also manages more than 7 million square feet of residential, commercial, industrial and office real estate, as well as more than 17,200 units in retirement homes and rental buildings. The company also has extensive experience in hotel management. http://www.cogir.net
About Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ
Created in 1991, the Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ promotes economic growth and employment in Québec by strategically investing in profitable and socially responsible real estate projects in partnership with other industry leaders. The Fonds immobilier backs residential, office, commercial, institutional and industrial projects of all sizes across Québec. The Fonds immobilier is a member of the Canada Green Building Council.www.fondsimmobilierftq.com
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