West Downs Centre WELL Certification
Healthier people through better buildings: WELL accreditation for the West Downs Centre
The University of Winchester’s flagship West Downs Centre, which opened in September 2020 after two years’ under construction, is among one of the first university projects in the UK to be registered to pursue WELL Certification, an accreditation scheme which recognises buildings that support and advance human health and wellbeing.
WELL is focused on the ways that our buildings and indoor spaces can enhance the health and wellbeing of individuals. Given that we spend as much as 90 per cent of our lives indoors, using our expertise to design better buildings that help our students, staff and visitors thrive is vital.
The link between health and buildings was made many decades ago and is now a fast-growing area of interest. As a forward-thinking institution, recognised for its pioneering work in sustainability, the wellbeing of students, staff and visitors is a key driver for developing and managing our estate, alongside sustainable building development.
Features of the West Downs Centre that boost wellbeing include a contemplation space for practicing mindfulness; healthy food options; access to nature through the courtyard garden; landscaped areas for encouraging outdoor use, and reduced harmful buildings emissions, including air and water testing. In addition, many workstations have adjustable height sit-stand desks.
Delivered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the WELL Building Standard (WELL) is a performance-based rating system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features that impact human health and wellness in the built environment.
The ten concepts of WELL are: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind and community.
As at August 2021, there are 29,761 projects encompassing over 2.72 billion square feet applying WELL across 97 countries.
Buildings are awarded WELL Certification by IWBI after rigorous testing and a final evaluation by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which is the third-party certification body for WELL, to ensure they meet all WELL performance requirements.
About the West Downs Centre
Being located on such a prominent site, the University was keen to express its values and encourage a greater connection with the community. The design brief developed into creating spaces and functions which expressed the values of the University and allowed the students, staff and the local community to enjoy and understand these values.
Further examination of our values and the quality of the architectural design led to the adoption of WELL Certified as an accreditation tool. The adoption of WELL Certified has strengthened management and policy pertaining to health and wellbeing of building users.
The building has been designed to encourage a connection with the community. The public are encouraged to visit the ground floor areas where the Values Café and other features can be found. These include; the courtyard garden, with art work, planting and water feature; art gallery; contemplation space and information hub.
Links to the University values
The University’s values are Compassion, Individuals Matter and Spirituality.
The building connects to Compassion through sustainability goals (measured by BREEAM accreditation) which aim to respond to the need to value all life and the planet. This includes low energy design, recycling of rainwater, use of renewable energy and responsible use of building materials.
The value of Individuals Matter is supported in the building by embracing equality, diversity and inclusivity. Connectivity with the community, beauty of design and the inclusive nature of the building all support the individual.
More practically, the building is designed to be as accessible as possible, with evacuation lifts and provision of automatic doors and hold-open doors which only close in the event of a fire alarm. Careful acoustic design provides spaces for quiet reflection and study. There are a variety of toilet facilities, including a wide range of accessible toilets, non-gender specific toilets and a Changing Places personal care room. Located adjacent to the publicly accessible Values Café, this provides less able users and their carers a comprehensive facility, including a changing bench, shower and hoist.
Spirituality is represented by the Contemplation Space, in which no particular faith is represented and users are provided with a space to relax and think. This unique design was the result of an internal design competition within the architectural practice, Design Engine. A circular quiet space with soft furnished pods around the perimeter and a sound system surrounds a central space with a domed ceiling. A sun path diagram is inscribed into the floor to provide occupants a means by which to connect with the planet.
The ten concepts of WELL
WELL is composed of over one hundred wellbeing features that are applied to each building project grouped within ten concepts. Each WELL feature is designed to address issues that impact the health, comfort or knowledge of building occupants and users.
Accreditation is based on buildings meeting criteria that boost wellbeing set out in the ten concepts of WELL. Features of the West Downs Centre meet those criteria in the following ways:
- Smoke-free environment
- Annual monitoring of air quality
- Condensation and mould prevention
- Fresh fruit and whole grains available
- Clear nutritional labelling on food
- Promotion of healthy eating
- Restriction of artificial ingredients
- Enhanced access to daylight
- Promotion of lighting education
- Adjustable height work stations/desks
- Cycle storage for staff, students and visitors
- Access to outdoor spaces for exercise
- Twice yearly monitoring of thermal conditions
- Thermostatic temperature control
- Twice yearly occupant comfort surveys
- Acoustic designed interiors
- Identification of quiet zones
- No use of hazardous materials in construction
- Hazardous waste management
- Environmentally-friendly cleaning products used throughout
- Control of emissions from building materials
- Mental health promotion and literacy
- Dedicated contemplation space for personal reflection
- Access to nature: bird and bat boxes
- Courtyard garden with art and water feature
- Promotion of health and wellness education
- Occupant and user surveys
- Changing Places room for people with disabilities and their