Vander Graaff: CSU should work toward WELL building standards

Abby Vander

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

We all know that the stereotype of college life includes living in a dirty, cramped apartment or dorm, eating ramen while drinking copious amounts of alcohol and setting couches on fire. But our world has changed, our technology has advanced and as the future generation of productive adults, we should evolve with it.

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At the end of the spring 2019 semester, the Associated Students of Colorado State University discussed a resolution to bring University buildings to the standards of the WELL certification, which could be a first step toward student well-being on CSU’s campus.

WELL building requirements promote health in areas such as airflow, thermal comfort and water. It also promotes less conventional attributes of healthy living such as mind, community and nourishment.

The standards provide goals for architects to meet so that new buildings are not only new, but built with the intention of benefiting the people who spend time inside them.

We all know that depression, stress and anxiety strongly impact the lives of college students. The way we interact with buildings has a larger impact on our moods than many of us realize — lighting being one example. Overexposure to blue light and underexposure to natural light can offset the circadian rhythm, which impacts mental health.

“What is more sustainable than caring for human beings and their health?”

Instead of nursing headaches during class in the basement of Clark or reeling from a fast food meal in the Lory Student Center, WELL facilities could help students narrow their focus onto the classes they are paying so much money to attend.

CSU has adapted to the needs of its students before and had positive results. In 2016, after a rising demand for mental health services, alumni developed YOU@CSU, a telehealth system that allows students to care for their mental health without actually having to make an appointment at the doctor’s office.

The program has helped 75% of its users manage stress and won a national award for innovation in 2018.

The Collegian notes that “CSU will be the first university in the country to have a WELL certified building.” This means that CSU could set the precedent for universities to consider the health and well-being of their students in a more comprehensive manner.

According to SOURCE, CSU is already making sustainability efforts — dozens of buildings on campus are already LEED certified, meaning they rank highly for sustainability. And what is more sustainable than caring for human beings and their health?

Making the buildings on campus where we spend most of our days healthy, nourishing places is an investment in the well-being of our students, faculty and staff. We will be happier and healthier, and because of this, we will ultimately be more productive and able to continue the legacy of innovation at CSU.

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While the feasibility and cost of bringing campus buildings to this standard are questionable, even an incentive to try would move the way we think about campus construction in the right direction.

College is a time where hard work takes over and health gets forgotten — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Most of us are at CSU because we want to make things better, and there’s no better place to start than with our own health.

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at letters@collegain.com or Twitter at @abbym_vg.