USGBC+: Living Well: Tampa becomes the first city in the world to introduce a WELL certified district

 In In The News, WELL Building Standard

USGBC+, January/February 2016
By Mary Grauerholz

When green building began to sweep the country in the 1970s, it came with a red alert: Construction with toxic components was harmful to the environment. A correlation between the effects of traditional construction and human health increased the urgency. Now, a group of stakeholders is breaking new, higher ground by establishing the world’s first WELL Certified city district in Tampa, Florida.

Paul Scialla helped launch the International WELL Building Institute. He oversees the work to ensure it will meet WELL Certification.

The project will be the first district-wide application of the WELL Building Standard, the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. WELL fulfills a 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to improve the way people live indoors, and this new commitment builds on WELL and tackles the even greater challenge of creating city-scale developments built for health and wellness. “Today more than half the global population is already residing in cities,” former President Bill Clinton said as he announced the latest commitment at the 2015 CGI Annual Meeting. “The physical spaces where we live, work, and play influence our level of physical activity, social interaction, and our health.”

The philosophy of WELL and its application to the Tampa project is straightforward: Better air and water, greener construction, and more healthful options for food and fitness—presented in the framework of a connected community—intend to help improve the physical and emotional health of the people living there. Research shows that people who live in walkable, connected neighborhoods have lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

The city district of Tampa, Florida, will be the first district-wide application of the WELL Building Standard, the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness.

The 40-acre development, due to break ground in Tampa’s downtown waterfront area this year, will be a walkable, sustainable, healthy environment for residents, workers, and visitors. Overseeing the effort is a starry convergence of figures in the worlds of business and not-for-profits: Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team; Cascade Investment, LLC; and Paul Scialla, who launched the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

Vinik and Cascade Investment are building the development under the name of Strategic Property Partners in concert with the city of Tampa. Scialla will oversee the necessary work to assure the certification of the district and that the project’s individual buildings meet WELL Certification. The intent is that each building also will attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The Tampa project came together last winter. “I was in Tampa last February for a meeting regarding the WELL Certification of another project,” Scialla says. “Jeff [Vinik] and I talked, and it completely gelled. As he became more familiar with the WELL Building Standard, he and his team saw this as a wonderful opportunity to become the first pilot community.”

The development is anchored around Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm professional football team. Phase one will include 1,000 residential units; a new 400-500–room luxury hotel; a 650,000-sq-ft office tower; 200,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, and entertainment venues; the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute; and an adjoining office building for health-related businesses. Green space, dog parks, and water features will be woven throughout.

With a $1 billion price tag, phase one is expected to be built out within five years. When all three phases of the project are completed, the development will encompass 6 million square feet of commercial, residential, and retail space, with a total investment of more than $2 billion. The first step, planned for mid-2016, is construction of a reconfigured roadway network and new infrastructure.

The project, informed by the WELL Building Standard, will reflect seven categories that relate to health in the built environment: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The overall aim, Scialla said, is to create a community that promotes nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance for residents and visitors.

Scialla is also the founder and CEO of Delos, the company that pioneered Wellness Real Estate™ and WELL. Delos launched IWBI in 2013 after pledging to share WELL globally in the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. Delos Advisory Board members include Dick Gephardt, Deepak Chopra, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The district will feature wide sidewalks that allow for more walking, bike lanes for cyclists, abundant public green space to encourage outdoor living, access to healthful foods, green infrastructure, and all the amenities of an urban waterfront.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is happy to see sustainability and health polishing the city’s profile. “Tampa is proud to be the first city in the world to be home to a WELL Certified District,” Buckhorn said. “Our city will demonstrate that city design, not just building design, can be healthy and sustainable, and it will position our community as forward thinking.”

As the first of its kind in the world, the Tampa development will set a global example of how a built environment can promote health and wellness, so its measurement system must be impeccable.

The WELL Building Standard is third-party certified by Green Business Certification Inc., which administers the LEED certification program and the LEED professional credentialing program.

Scialla says the rating systems are a seamless fit. “The WELL Building Standard is a perfect complement to LEED and all green rating systems,” he says. The project is setting another example, as well. IWBI, the driver of the Tampa district’s health and wellness goals, is a public benefit corporation, an emerging type of structure in the U.S. for corporations that are committed to balancing public benefits with profitability. IWBI, Scialla says, has committed to direct 51 percent of net profits generated by WELL Certification project fees, after taxes, for philanthropic purposes and investments focused on health, wellness, and the built environment.

Vinik sees health and wellness as one of the major social movements of our era. “In a competitive marketplace,” he says, “employees and employers both desire the quality-of-life investments that will make our district WELL.”