Healthy Labs: Opportunities for the WELL Standard in Research Environments

Julia Janaro, Clark Nexsen
Don Kranbuehl, Clark Nexsen

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Environmental health and safety is a key priority for all research environments. However, concern for occupant health needs to extend beyond immediate process-based hazards. The relationship between workers and their indoor environment can impact their overall health on a daily and life-long basis. The WELL standard has been developed in order to address the "wellness" of building occupants and provide building designers and owners with a means to consider this value over the life of the building. By considering the categories of air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, community, and innovation, the WELL process prompts design teams to focus on the indoor environment, relationship to the natural world, and opportunities to impact the greater good.

While the detailed nature of lab planning may feel as though it does not lend itself to such broad goals, the reality is that more and more of the workforce are operating in these facilities. The staff need to be considered just as any other office or academic worker in other environments. This presentation will develop several strategies for reconciling the WELL standard with research facility design: first, it will assess the overall WELL checklist and discuss the priorities most impactful to the research environment; second, it will review several existing research facilities, and develop the corresponding WELL checklist; and third, it will focus on the building occupants themselves, and the benefits that have been observed in WELL-designed buildings.

Whether or not a building owner chooses to pursue the WELL standard in their facility, there is an ethical value to discussing the health and wellness impact of a facility on both its staff and the larger community. By discussing these opportunities among the design community, these values can develop to be integral part of our typical process.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the opportunities of applying the WELL standard to research environments;
  • Understand the challenges of incorporating some of the WELL standards to specific or unique research environments;
  • Learn more about the impact of the workplace environment on employee health and welfare; and
  • Develop new means for transitioning wellness goals between the design process and the life-span of the building.


Julia has 18 years of experience creating healthy and productive spaces, practicing sustainable building and site design, and realizing performance benefits for building owners. Her focus has been on research and higher education projects, creating adaptive solutions for highly technical programs that address current needs and anticipate further growth.

Don is an award-winning architect with over 20 years of experience in the design of academic, science and technology, and civic project types. He has led the design of a variety of projects that have won over 20 AIA awards, including two national AIA CAE awards and three Chicago Athenaeum national design awards. Don is passionate about the relationship between architecture and its site and creating design solutions that respond to the climate, natural and built context, and public realm.


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