An article in the New York Times recently featured a company specializing in super-high-end healthy homes. The company, Delos Living, has created something it calls the WELL Building Standard — a standard designed to improve occupants’ health through a series of what the company maintains are unique features and technologies.
The gushing Times article was a bit over the top: “the second coming of sustainable real estate,” “posture-supportive flooring,” “air … continually cleansed … [and] subtly infused by aromatherapy,” “the uber-stratosphere of the healthy housing movement.”
I might forgive Delos for the superlatives, and I assume that the Times writer just got carried away and bought into their whole concept. The promotion efforts by Delos Living, and the company’s very sleek website, don’t shy away from their own awesomeness.
So what’s their standard?
The Delos Living website page that outlines their WELL Building Standard starts off with the point that it is designed to operate alongside sustainable building standards like LEED and Living Building Challenge with minimal overlap. The WELL standard is divided into seven categories: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. The Air standard claims to include “aggressive, performance based requirements that ensures the highest level of safety for indoor air quality.” This sounds fine conceptually, as do their objectives on providing clean drinking water, encouraging cooking and healthy eating, personal fitness, comfort, and reduced stress.
Interestingly, there is nothing beyond these broad-based claims available for reference on their website. I understand that they are currently working with the International Living Futures Institute on developing official standards, but it remains to be seen what will come of this.
The company has an impressive advisory board that includes Deepak Chopra, Dick Gephardt, Terry McAuliffe, and Jason McLennan of the Living Future Institute. Given that the Delos founders both retired from Goldman Sachs at the age of 39, they seem to have made good use of their connections in the stratosphere of finance to create an advisory board for their new venture.
I’m sure they are building very impressive apartments in New York City — which they should be, since the apartments are priced between $15 and $50 million — but so far, I don’t see much more than WELL Building vaporware.
Who needs LEED anyway?
Now I have my own (well documented) problems with LEED, but there is a highlighted comment in the article that says, “With new luxury dwellings certified WELL, who needs LEED anyway?” Now, that comment seems a bit over the top.
To be fair, this line is not attributed to anyone in particular. In fact, it may only be an interpretation of the company’s intent by the writer, but it could also be something that one of the founders said in conversation.
Some attributed quotes that also deserve comment include, “[Delos] is really onto something that will ultimately be as universal and accepted as green construction.” Really? What universe is he in, where green construction is universal and accepted?
One more: “Why build homes and offices just so they’re good for the environment? Why not build them so they’re good for people, too?” Are they completely missing the basic concepts of green building? I guess they think that they are the first people to think that occupant health and comfort are important.
Maybe there is more there, but I’m skeptical
In particular, Alter pointed out that many new technologies start at the high end and trickle down to the mainstream. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it in this case. I may be proven wrong, but something about this whole operation just rubs me the wrong way.
Then again, I don’t have $15 million to spend on an apartment in New York, but sometimes I wish I did.