At the new Lakehouse condominium complex in Sloan’s Lake, there are perks you see—floor-to-ceiling windows in penthouse units, a juicing station, a sauna—and perks you don’t see, like a sophisticated air-filtration system and mold-killing ultraviolet lights in the pool. These elements, and dozens more, are part of a growing effort to boost buildings’ contributions to the health of their inhabitants. At the helm of the movement: the International WELL Building Institute, or IWBI, a corporation that’s set guidelines to help architects design residences, offices, schools, and more with wellness in mind. Denver’s Nava Real Estate Development, the team behind the Lakehouse, was the first in Colorado to register with the IWBI under the multifamily track—and they hope to prove just how luxurious a healthy building can be when residents move in this fall. (Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop devotees, perhaps?)

The Well movement started with Paul Scialla, a Wall Street finance guy who wondered how people’s environments affect their health. That question set in motion eight years of research with doctors and designers—the results of which led the team to realize “the air that you breathe, the water you drink, the light you see, it’s all having an impact on your physical, mental, and social well-being,” says Jessica Cooper, chief commercial officer at IWBI, which Scialla founded. “The goal is to use the built environment as a form of preventive health care.”

So Scialla and his team launched the WELL certification program in October 2014. To earn certification, buildings must meet standards in seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The strategies for doing so can be flashy. The Lakehouse, for example, includes a 3,000-square-foot urban garden, fulfilling a requirement under the “nourishment” category that a garden be located on the premises (residents can harvest vegetables and herbs).

Not surprisingly, earning Well certification isn’t easy—or inexpensive. The list of requirements comprises 105 different features a new building must achieve. To help guide builders and developers, the IWBI employs technical coaches, who ensure project managers understand the criteria. A third party, the Green Business Certification Inc., conducts final performance tests, like measuring for water properties that improve taste (sodium should be less than 270 mg/L, for example) and ensuring certain resources are available (like a health-and-wellness-themed library). As for the cost? “There’s definitely an investment here, but we think it’s worthwhile,” says Brian Levitt, president and co-founder of Nava. “It enhances the project’s attractiveness.”

Despite the price tag (a one-bedroom starts around a hefty $500,000), Levitt is confident that potential buyers will be interested. And he doesn’t think he’ll ever return to pre-Well standards. “We want to help our buyers achieve their own personal wellness goals,” he says. “It’s really fun to start to think about this in a holistic way.”

Photo courtesy of The Lakehouse
Be-Well Blueprint

Check out the Lakehouse’s sleek amenities. (And you thought your humidifier was fancy.)

  • Air
    An in-floor duct containment system near the entrance allows particle pollutants to filter off shoes before they’re tracked into the building and spread through the air.
  • Water
    Colorado’s H20 already passes Well standards, but placing water dispensers in common areas promotes hydration.
  • Nourishment
    If food is served in the building, 50 percent of the options must be a fruit or non-fried vegetable, and all allergens must be labeled.
  • Light
    Special window glass means that light coming in is thermally and visually comfortable for residents.
  • Fitness
    An on-site fitness or training program must be offered at least once a month by a professional.
  • Comfort
    Sound-absorbing mats placed beneath tile floors, plus extra insulation in the ceiling, muffle footsteps. Less sound, more sleep.
  • Mind
    Each resident receives a health manual explaining how to change air filters, eat healthfully, exercise safely, and clean using non-toxic, environmentally conscious products.