Recharging Minds and Missions: Takeaways From the 2024 WELL Conference

Recharging Minds and Missions: Takeaways From the 2024 WELL Conference



*Three days in Long Beach unlocks opportunities, creates momentum and drives action*

*By **Kimberly Lewis Inkumsah** and **Jason Hartke, Ph.D.*

*NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / May 13, 2024 /* As we close out a sunny week in southern California, the energy is electric.

The 2024 WELL Conference featured a rich array of sessions, from envisioning the next frontier of healthy buildings to amplifying the importance of diversity in shaping healthier spaces. Roundtables provided the opportunity to zero-in on industry trends, from sustainable finance to measuring health impact. And a unique-project type panel profiled SFO's Harvey Milk Terminal B, the Petinelli Curitiba, a hospital that provides cost-free care to 80% of patients, as well as a manufacturing facility-all of which earned WELL Certification.

*"What an incredible journey it's been! Over the past three days, the WELL community harnessed the immense power of people-to-people, face-to-face connection while engaging in remarkable content," said Kimberly Lewis Inkumsah, Executive Vice President of Equity, Engagement, and Events at IWBI. "From championing equity and inclusivity in design to exploring AI's influence across industries, attendees are now able to weave well-being into their lives in new ways. And we're not done yet-I can't wait for what the rest of our WELL 2024 | RECHARGE series holds!"*

Read on:

*Public Health Icons Take Center Stage*
Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Michelle Williams of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Kenneth Mendez of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and Dr. Esther Sternberg, author of Well at Work, brought awe and inspiration as icons of public health, demonstrating evidence to action. The panel was punctuated with the unveiling and signing of IWBI's International Healthy Building Accord-a global call to action outlining the imperative for healthy buildings, key focus areas and strategic policy actions necessary to accelerate healthy buildings worldwide.

"In the role of Surgeon General, we would issue a call to action when the nation's health, well-being or safety was at risk. This is a similar situation and precisely why we are uniting under the banner of the International Healthy Building Accord, a global call to action urging the world's leaders to take key policy actions to accelerate change," said *Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States*. "And considering we spend 90% of our lives indoors, it is imperative that our buildings protect, support and enhance our health, such as providing clean air to breathe and clean water to drink."

*Smart Buildings: Balancing Health and Innovation*
At another MainStage session, pioneering leaders of the healthy building movement explored just how "smart" buildings can be and how that intelligence can be aimed at supporting healthy, more resilient and more sustainable buildings. From discussing the trajectory to net zero and fostering climate resilience to exploring transformative solutions at the intersection of health and decarbonization, the spotlight on the future of high-performance buildings was shining bright. Our own Rachel Hodgdon led the lively conversation with Eran Chen of ODA, Emily Watkins of the Instant Group, George R. Oliver of Johnson Controls International and Rick Fedrizzi, IWBI Executive Chairman.

Oliver, CEO and Chairman of Johnson Controls, shared the need for buildings to become more strategic: they have been historically viewed as part of the balance sheet, the time is now to change that.

Chen, Founder of ODA, spoke about his approach to design, including how he strives to integrate the indoors and outdoors to improve health outcomes.

There was talk of healthy workplaces-once considered a nice-to-have, healthy workplaces have become a must-have in real estate, especially in coworking and flexible workspaces. And evidence-based health interventions help support workplace satisfaction, comfort and productivity, while also helping organizations better attract and retain talent. Which is why IWBI and The Instant Group, the largest global marketplace for flexible workspace, of which Watkins serves as Chief Client Officer, recently formed a strategic partnership to spur health and well-being practices in coworking and flexible workspaces.

The partnership will encompass a range of joint efforts aimed at elevating health, including opportunities to advance innovative solutions to better support people-first spaces.

*Design and the Future of the Human Experience*
We were on the edge of our seats as Cheryl Durst of IIDA, Maya Bird-Murphy, of Mobile Makers, Gabrielle Bullock of Perkins&Will and Yiselle Santos Rivera of HKS shared emerging trends in creating spaces that promote both physical well-being and inclusivity. The critical role design plays in fostering belonging, justice, equity and inclusion was the focal point.

The all-women panel shared their personal definitions of human health and wellness, citing psychological safety and a sense of belonging to the ethos of architects, historically rooted in health, safety and welfare. An environment that provided the ability to thrive was a must for all.

*Gabrielle Bullock* reminded us that true equity in design transcends the conventional. It's about crafting environments that authentically reflect the diverse identities of those who inhabit them. "Equity isn't just a wellness room and gender-neutral bathrooms," she emphasized. "It's about designing spaces that resonate with everyone's unique identity in the workplace."

And from the upcoming "clash of generations," to intergenerational living, there was palpable excitement about changing challenges into opportunities through transformative design centered around people and shared values.

As *Durst* put it: "Design is about what is on the receiving end. At the receiving end of design is human beings."

And during the Design for Inclusion and Belonging roundtable, Durst also spoke to the need to design for the "the longevity revolution," per the UN, how by 2050, the number of people reaching age 100 is increasing to 4 million. This is compounded by the fact that age is also psychological, and sedentary lifestyles invite such effects as back pain at younger and younger ages, when we're expected to live longer and longer.

*Equity Driving Impact*
"Equity is fundamental to the work that we are doing no matter who we are. It is fundamental to justice, well-being and building a sense of trust for the shared future," said *Stephen Huddart, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria.*

What shapes who we are and can become? Thanks to Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Dr. Courtney Howard of the Global Climate and Health Alliance and Stephen Huddart of the University of Victoria, we further know that embracing equity leads to meaningful and lasting impact, fostering a more inclusive and just society for all. The panel explored the deep vulnerabilities of the youngest generations in indigenous Canadian cultures, including the stark inequities they have faced, and how the work of courageous advocates who came together to beat the odds to create lasting change. Feeling connected to land, to structures, is a critical piece in supporting equitable solutions, and ensuring that land contributes to well-being.

As *Dr. Howard* shared, "Buildings are a gift to the next generation, if we do them well."

In the Yellowknife region of Canada, there was a near 3-month bout of wildfire smoke, the worst on earth. Clean air shelters were one opportunity to enhance equity in the community-but the standards set for clean air shelters were set at a different time.

And hear from *Cindy Blackstock* on the underpinning of being a true advocate for equity, and implementing solutions:

*Inspiring PechaKucha Storytelling*
Eight visionaries who represent all walks of life-from the wellness space and real estate to tech experts, Olympians and business owners-brought the house down with stories of courage, innovation and heart, all centered on health and well-being. In PechaKucha-style, each storyteller told their tale using: 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide, for a 7-minute story.

The stories featured pioneers, investors, parents, innovators, Olympians, Olympian parents-specifically the first-ever mom to win a gold medal in swimming. Our storytellers got real, discussing health challenges, work challenges and life challenges. There was a connection throughout each story, as the critical link of health and well-being won the day-something relatable and inspiring for everyone in the audience.

"I realized I needed to develop self worth not linked to performance. I thought winning a gold medal and breaking a world record would make me feel like enough, but it didn't." - Dana Vollmer-Grant, Assoc AIA, WELL AP, CBSM, 5x Olympic Gold Medalist, Associate, Programming Specialist, ELS Architecture and Urban Design

*Wellness as a First Line of Defense, with WELL for residential on the Horizon*
It was a privilege to have the Honorable Brendan Owens, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Department of Defense, on the MainStage. Responsible for more than 500,000 military buildings across the world - from housing to aircraft hangars, from the Pentagon to training campuses - Mr. Owens highlighted scores of agency priorities, as well as the role of buildings in keeping U.S. armed forces at the top of their game.

Owens also shared that the Department of Defense is a part of the WELL for residential pilot, which will provide technical credibility to underpin decisions the agency is making to form policy for its properties.

IWBI's Rachel Hodgdon celebrates Caplow Manzano's achievement of the WELL for residential designation for its CM1 project in Miami. The project was recently featured on the front page of the Miami Herald. Caplow Manzano was one of the 25 pilot participants of the WELL for residential program, a new roadmap in the WELL ecosystem for architects, designers, builders, developers and operators to create healthier, more resilient homes.

The WELL Conference, a recharge moment for the mission, left an indelible mark on attendees near and far, sparking ideas and initiatives that will continue to propel the healthy building movement forward-because we all benefit when we come together to advance people-first places.

The fun isn't over: check out our global series and join a WELL Recharge local summit.

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*SOURCE: *International WELL Building Institute
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