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Mayors pledge to advancing healthy buildings in fight against COVID-19

By Andrew Sansom 02 Jul 2020 0

In a sweeping show of support for public health and wellbeing, mayors from across the US have approved a healthy buildings resolution to better position cities and communities in the fight against COVID-19.

The commitment underscores the leading role that buildings and their indoor spaces play in charting a path to healthier and more equitable communities.

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), which represents mayors in more than 1400 cities, passed the resolution at the conclusion of its 88th annual meeting earlier this week.

“Now, more than ever, we need to understand and advance comprehensive and integrated solutions that will deliver the benefits of healthy buildings to everyone, particularly those in vulnerable communities and high-priority settings, such as senior and assisted living facilities, affordable housing, healthcare facilities, hospitals, and our schools,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, who introduced the resolution alongside fellow mayors from cities in Florida, and Chicago, Illinois.

Mayor Benjamin noted that we spend approximately 90 per cent of our lives in buildings and that the places where we live and work have a profound impact on our health. He added that this connection has “never been clearer than it is today”, and that the resolution would help meet the challenge to support better buildings to help people thrive.

A growing body of research demonstrates that better building design and management practices can help to reduce respiratory issues, such as asthma and allergies, and mitigate the transmission of viruses, including COVID-19.

“Mayors have always been innovators,” said Rick Fedrizzi, chairman and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). “In 2013, the nation’s mayors passed a seminal healthy buildings resolution, recognising the important action we can take to improve people’s health through better buildings and acknowledging specifically the role of the emergent WELL Building Standard (WELL).

“Today, as we take on the defining global health crisis of our time, mayors have once again stepped up to embrace integrated, evidence-based building solutions that are absolutely critical in the fight against COVID-19.”

The resolution, ‘Advancing healthy buildings in the fight against COVID-19’, encourages communities to lead by example by taking action through the adoption of healthy building strategies and tools for public buildings, citing the WELL Building Standard, the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management, and Green Communities 2020. The resolution also encourages city leaders to make use of these tools in affordable housing and private building projects receiving public funding or support.

“Through the vehicle of WELL, we have the means to position our buildings, and those who tend to them, as frontline caregivers in COVID-19 response and recovery,” said Rachel Gutter, president of the IWBI. “By finding ways to deploy WELL and the recently launched WELL Health-Safety Rating, cities can ensure they’re at the forefront of combating COVID-19 and advancing public health for all.”

Earlier this month, the IWBI announced the WELL Health-Safety Rating for all building and facility types, an evidence-based, third-party verified rating focusing on operational policies, maintenance protocols, stakeholder engagement, and emergency plans to address a post COVID-19 environment.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating is one of the earliest outcomes of IWBI’s Task Force on COVID-19, a group of nearly 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals, which was established in late March to help guide the IWBI’s response to the pandemic.

Registrations under the WELL Building Standard have already surpassed 580 million square feet across 62 countries.