UW-Stout Faculty of Interior Design, Students Join the Safe, Healthier Building Movement


From left to right, UW-Stout Interior Design Professors Julie Peterson, Nicolette Brehm and Shelley Pecha, who recently became WELL Accredited Professionals. / UW-Stout

Three teachers, eight students pass the international WELL certification

There are good reasons why buildings, from homes to workspaces to shops, should be safe and have healthy indoor environments – humans are indoors about 90% of their lives.

“The environments in which they spend their time have a direct impact on their overall well-being,” said Nicolette Brehm, assistant professor in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Growing national and international awareness of safe and healthy buildings led to the establishment in 2013 of WELL by the International WELL Building Institute in New York. WELL sponsors a sound construction standard, used in over 30,000 projects to date, and professional certification.

Over 16,000 people in 98 countries from various aspects of the building industry have become WELL Accredited Professionals, including architects, engineers, construction professionals and more.

Among the most recent are Brehm and his colleagues in interior design UW-Stout, Professors Shelley Pecha and Julie Peterson. Over the summer they prepared and passed the certification.

“As professors, it is important for us to help students understand the direct impact they have on human health. Having the WELL AP accreditation behind our name helps them see that we as teachers take this seriously, ”said Brehm. “It also taught us the process of obtaining WELL certification for a building and the requirements for this to happen.”

Photo of Michaela Cook, one of eight UW-Stout students who passed the WELL certification.  / Contribution photo

Michaela Cook is one of eight UW-Stout students to achieve WELL certification. / Contribution photo

Pecha, the program manager, is pleased with the staff effort and its potential impact. “I think it’s really special that we were able to do this together. We rooted for each other and celebrated with each other. I also think it’s special that the three offending members are all WELL accredited. I don’t know of any other program that can say that all of their inner faulty limbs are OK AP. This will help us define our program in the future, ”said Pecha.

Brehm was delighted that a group of students also prepared and passed the exam, which gave them a potential advantage in the job market.

“Many design companies require some type of accreditation, whether it’s LEED, WELL, or others when hiring. These students have already finished. We train designers to create healthier buildings. It benefits communities and the environment – a victory for everyone, ”she said.

Students who have become certified are:

  • Michaela Cook of River Falls
  • Jesalyn Dahlstrom, from Mosinee
  • Emma Emch, from Colfax
  • Kaylin Keffeler, from Wausau
  • Ariel Kuchta, from Green Bay
  • Nicole McConville, from Watertown
  • Ezra Nelson, of Saint-Paul
  • Allison Pizzi, from River Falls

Brehm noted that students also prepare for other certifications during their courses and that aspects of sustainability are built into the curriculum.

“Students get excited about these topics and take these issues seriously. They understand that their decisions have and will have great impacts on others and the environment, ”said Brehm.

Photo of lighting designs created by interior design students at UW-Stout.  / UW-Stout

Interior design students at UW-Stout study light and lighting design, including the creation of their own lights. / UW-Stout

See the big picture

During the certification process, Brehm has developed an overview of the aspects that WELL considers for healthy buildings. “There are many elements to take into account when designing well-being in a building. All the features have to work together for the best results, ”she said.

The seven features discussed are:

  • Air: quality and safety
  • Water: quality and safety
  • Food: healthy options
  • Light: including access to daylight, minimizing glare and appropriate light levels
  • Fitness and exercise: such as bicycle storage and repair space and the placement of stairs to promote their use
  • Comfort: including workspace options, temperature, sound levels and ergonomic furniture
  • Mind: including biophilic design, health and wellness awareness, beauty and design.

WELL-certified building designers, for example, must use recycled materials and materials that do not emit volatile organic compounds, called VOCs, which are common in industry.

UW-Stout’s nationally accredited interior design program, part of the School of Art and Design, blends aspects of fine arts, design, and technical disciplines.



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