Buildings COVID-19 Impact Advice, Coronavirus Health Burden Reduction Guide

How Buildings Can Reduce Health Burden of COVID-19

27 Mar 2020

IWBI Assembles Task Force on Role Buildings Can Play in Reducing Health Burden of COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections

Former RWJF President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, UCLA’s Dr. Jonathan Fielding, 17th Surgeon General of the United States Richard Carmona, Harvard School of Public Health’s Joseph Allen to co-chair the effort to advance the role of buildings in protecting and enhancing health

New York City – March 26th, 2020 – The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) announced today that it is standing up a Task Force on reducing the enormous health burden from COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Its goal is to define the critical role buildings, organizations and communities play in prevention and preparedness, resilience and recovery. The Task Force’s work will take a broad approach, considering both new and recurring infectious agents that can affect large populations.

Springfield University Hospital in London design by C.F. Møller Architects:
Springfield University Hospital in London building design
image courtesy of architects

Co-chairing the Task Force are Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., MBA, former president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and distinguished professor of population health and health equity at the University of Pennsylvania; Jonathan Fielding, M.D., MPH, MA, MBA, distinguished professor at UCLA in the Fielding School of Public Health and the Geffen School of Medicine and former director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Richard Carmona, M.D., MPH, FACS, who was 17th Surgeon General of the United States and is presently distinguished professor at the University of Arizona; and Joseph Allen, DSc, MPH, assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The task force will include experts from public health, government, academia and philanthropy, as well as the architecture, design and real estate communities.

“IWBI’s work centers on providing evidence-backed solutions that advance better health and well-being in the places and spaces where we spend our lives,” said IWBI Chairman and CEO Rick Fedrizzi. “The creation of this Task Force provides a mechanism to focus on this immediate challenge and collect and apply the expertise and insight of our global community, which includes practicing physicians, environmental and behavioral scientists, leading design practitioners and innovation leaders from global corporations.”

MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper in Camden, New Jersey, design by Francis Cauffman, Architects:
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper building design
photo : Chris Cooper

“This task force can help us focus quickly on actionable measures we can take to more fully deliver resources needed to advance a global culture of health that includes everyone,” said Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey.

“This timely effort will mine the scientific literature to identify enhanced opportunities for the built environment to improve population health,” said Dr. Fielding.

Surgeon General Carmona commends IWBI for bringing together global public health thought leaders to focus on optimizing the built environment to prevent, respond to, mitigate and recover from “all hazards” to the United States to include coronavirus. The built environment is an essential element in physical and mental health as well as preventing disease.

“The urgency of action towards mitigating the physical, emotional and economic impacts of this virus and other respiratory infections cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Allen. “Nor can the outsized impact that can occur if we improve our buildings, as well as the policies, protocols and procurement guidelines organizations have in place, so that they work together to protect and improve the health of everyone. This pandemic is the challenge of our time and buildings will play a central role in our response, and ultimate recovery.“

“The aim of the Task Force is twofold,” said IWBI President Rachel Gutter. “First, to identify and develop a set of signature deliverables and resources, including guidelines for individuals, organizations and communities to help them better integrate actionable insights and proven strategies into how they manage both their buildings and their organizations.

Second, the Task Force will assess ways in which the WELL Building Standard (WELL) itself can be further strengthened so the system, which touches more than a half-billion square feet of space across 58 countries, can best continue to support prevention and preparedness, resiliency and recovery in this critical moment and into the future.”

Gutter noted that more information about the Task Force and how individuals can raise their hands to get involved can be found here:

“WELL already reflects the massive amount of current health research and data we’ve amassed and integrated since its launch in late 2014,” she said. “But the landscape shifted at the first of the year with the global onset of this virus. We are committed to making sure we share freely everything we’ve learned with our global community and beyond. We owe it to everyone to make sure the comprehensive, evidence-based interventions that we’ve codified in WELL move us in the direction of better health and enhanced resilience for everyone, everywhere.”

About the International WELL Building Institute
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is leading the global movement to transform our buildings, communities and organizations in ways that help people thrive. The WELL v2 pilot is the latest version of its popular WELL Building Standard (WELL), and the WELL Community Standard pilot is a district scale rating system that sets a new global benchmark for healthy communities. WELL is focused exclusively on the ways that buildings and communities, and everything in them, can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance, not compromise, our health and wellness.

IWBI mobilizes the wellness community through management of the WELL AP credential, the pursuit of applicable research, the development of educational resources, and advocacy for policies that promote health and wellness everywhere. IWBI is a participant of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative, and helps companies advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the use of WELL. More information on WELL can be found here.

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