The Clinton Global Initiative produces a pretty mighty font of philanthropy: corporate titans, nonprofit leaders, and heads of state convene, and hundreds of millions of dollars pour into programs helping hundreds of millions of people around the world. Clean energy and health care for the world's poor, initiatives to aid subsistence farmers and combat climate change, and so on and so forth.
Perhaps a similar aura of grandeur is intended to accompany one of the initiative's latest announcements; that of the "world's first building standard focused exclusively on enhancing people's health and well-being." That's from the official statement from Delos, a developer touting a new "WELL Building Standard." It calls for the implementation of guidelines set forth by engineers, researchers, and doctors from Columbia University's medical school. So; nontoxic materials, environments designed to stimulate activity, proper ventilation, minimal exposure to pollutants, and more.
WELL is consciously aping the well-regarded LEED standard that has helped spur the boom in sustainable building, and is aiming to replicate that success in the human health arena.
"Health is an issue that's looked at in those programs, but they don't have stringent enough standards on health or wellness," said green building stalwart Jason F. McLennan at a CGI press conference.
Delos cofounder Morad Faree said that the standard “marries the best of science and technology with design and construction, curating a sustainability model that not only encompasses the best of green technology, but extends beyond it to a more integrated solution that elevates and addresses the importance of human sustainability.”
The standard will at first be put into practice by Delos itself, which will build a spate of hotels, offices, and residential complexes. Also, it looks like they're building Will.i.am's experimental Transform school in Los Angeles, because that's the sort of celeb-studded cross-pollination that goes down at CGI. After 5 years, 600,000 people will have come into contact with the healthier buildings, most of them through the hotels.
President Clinton himself announced the new standard (2:45 in):
Two things, though: Do we really need another building standard? Why not just integrate better health standards into LEED? (Probable answer: Delos stands to make some solid bucks if the program takes off)
Also, almost all of the planned projects target a severely upper class demographic — including a luxury apartment complex — and the folks who could use healthier buildings most will see no immediate benefits. After all, those who book swank hotel rooms are not typically the ones with asthma and a lack of access to good health care. In other words, it remains unclear how the high-tech healthy environs created by Delos will scale to impact the non-rich.
That said, it will certainly be worth watching the progress here; striving for healthier buildings is, indisputably, an admirable goal.