14 December 2021 – Gulf News – www.gulfnews.com
Criteria for WELL Health-Safety rating said to align with best practices in construction.
Dubai: Last week, Dubai Land Department (DLD) became the first integrated government building to get the global WELL Health-Safety Rating after successfully passing the evaluation and review by the Green Business Certification Corporation (GBCI) as a neutral evaluator. DLD announced that it achieved key features of the rating system, such as best practices in hygiene and sterilisation procedures, emergency preparedness programmes, health service resources, air- and water-quality management and innovation standards.
The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) under DLD not only adopted the rating but also recommended it for buildings to encourage safe and sustainable living.
But what exactly does this rating entail?
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, CEO of RERA Marwan Bin Galita said the WELL Health-Safety Rating is currently being implemented in the common areas of all the freehold properties that come under the Jointly Owned Properties (JOPs) in Dubai and there are plans to extend it to all the buildings with Ejari in phases. According to RERA, there are 2,224 JOPs buildings registered within RERA’s Mollak database, and there are 90 active management companies overseeing these properties.
Bin Galita said RERA had held a seminar with the IWBI earlier this year, presenting the WELL Health-Safety Rating to the management companies of the freehold JOP properties.
“[Due to the pandemic], everybody was worried about health and safety and they were inspecting every corner of their buildings. So we thought we should implement a standard that provides a sustainable and healthy solution for our buildings,” said Bin Galita.
Any 15 of the 23 stipulated criteria will allow organisations to achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating, according to Paul Scialla, founder of IWBI.
Scialla said the WELL Standard was developed after years of rigorous research and work with leading medical and science institutions, physicians, scientists and industry professionals.
“It provides a performance-based system that aligns best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and wellbeing.
Raising quality of life
While it may be contended that the rating would add a financial burden on management companies, Bin Galita denied such apprehensions. “We thought in the beginning it would be a burden on the building managements; but we realised that it was not the case as many of the policies are already embedded with the building management cost and it did not have any cost effect on the operation of the buildings. By focusing on creating healthier building environments, the rating actually creates more value for the building.”
“Achieving the rating will raise the quality of life within the building and the tenants’ confidence will go up. From here on, it will be a standard of approval for management companies,” he explained.
Bin Galita believes that tenants would start asking management companies about the requirements of the rating just like how they enquire about smart solutions such as high internet speed and less energy consumption in buildings.
Many takers for new rating
Several buildings in other sectors too have started adopting the WELL Building Standard.
Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, chancellor of the Hamdan bin Mohamed Smart University (HBMSU), which recently became the first university in the UAE to achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating, said, “The rating meets the global standards for sustainable buildings that we follow, which support the individuals’ health, well-being and happiness, which is why we are committed to working with international leaders in the field such as IWBI to ensure that HBMSU meets international health requirements standards. We believe that providing a sustainable and secure building will help improve the quality of life of our learners, faculty, and administrative staff in line with the global best practices.”
He said this is in response to the directives of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and President of the University, to support the national environmental sustainability efforts for future generations.
Another organisation to adopt WELL in Dubai is District 2020. Nadimeh Mehra, vice-president, District 2020, said: “We have aligned with WELL because District 2020 adopts the global benchmark’s emphasis on air and water quality, safety-related building standards, light, temperature, and controlled noise pollution levels to ensure an optimally comfortable, safe, and clean environment.”
District 2020 was planned to evolve from Expo 2020 Dubai into a future city that is designed for people first. “The human-centric focus is a central component of city planning, held by the most future-focused developers,” said Mehra.
“WELL standards combine best practices in design construction and operations with evidence-based scientific research; their goals align exactly with ours and in terms of how the entire site’s footprint can – and should – interact with buildings, transit, and infrastructure, and importantly to create a positive impact on people and the community,” Nadimeh added.
Healthier indoor environments
Scialla claimed the standard is the world’s first standard global platform to focus on enhancing people’s health and wellbeing through healthier indoor environments. Organisations from nearly 100 countries (representing over three billion square feet) have adopted WELL since its launch in 2014, he said.
Scialla said, “As a global leader, the UAE is paving new ground to ensure its buildings are helping to advance human health and well-being through the adoption and uptake of the WELL. Thanks to government leaders, more and more buildings and communities are using WELL to not only instill confidence in employees, residents and visitors, but also create tremendous progress across the country’s long-term health and sustainability.”
In addition to HBMSU, Expo 2020’s District 2020 and DLD, Scialla said a number of other government and private organisations in the UAE have incorporated WELL into their buildings and communities.