In this video, learn about the WELL Building Standard. Explore IWBI, certification levels, and the certification process.
- Health and wellness products and services have become some of the fastest growing markets in the world. Think about the product and system ads for losing weight, mindfulness, nutritional supplements, exercising equipment. Increasing consumer awareness and demand are impacting this growing trend. In the building industry, owners, designers, builders, and operators are increasingly expected to address health. Traditional approach to healthcare needs by addressing health after people have already become sick is costly.
Especially due to the increased burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Do you think buildings have an impact on your health and well-being? Can building environments shape our habits, regulate our sleep/wake cycle, and encourage us toward healthier choices? The WELL Building Institute is founded on the understanding that our built environment can have significant impact on improved nutrition intake, fitness, mood, sleep patterns and performance of its occupants.
The WELL Building Standard focuses exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in buildings, addressing behavior, operations, and design. WELL was launched in October 2014 as a result of collaboration with leading physicians, scientists, and industry professionals. Let me share a quick story. In most of the councils that I sit in, they are typically comprised of architects, engineers, building owners and so on. Recently, I belonged to a health and buildings round table where for the first time in my career I sat down right next to a medical doctor.
And we were talking about how we can all cooperate on public health. This was unexpected but very eye opening. But now in the building industry there are rating systems that evaluate how buildings perform for the health and wellness of their occupants. And WELL being one of them, is administered by the International WELL Building Institute or IWBI, a public benefit corporation which was launched by Delos in 2013.
IWBI cooperates with Green Business Certification Inc, GBCI, the same organization that administers LEED Certification to provide third party certification for WELL. Currently there are 700 WELL projects representing more than 130 million square feet of space over 32 countries. WELL applies to mostly commercial and institutional projects and it is organized into three project typologies.
New and existing buildings, new and existing interiors, and core and shell. Pilot programs are also available for retail, multi-family residential, education, restaurant, and commercial kitchen projects. New and existing building typology applies to office buildings where a minimum of 90% of the total area is occupied by the building owner and is operated by the same management.
WELL has performance requirements in seven categories, also called concepts. Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, and Mind. The seven concepts include 105 different features. Features can be performance based or prescriptive based standards. Similar to LEED Prerequisites, some WELL features are categorized as preconditions and are mandatory for all levels of WELL Certification.
WELL Optimizations are similar to LEED Credits. Project teams decide the optimizations to be pursued based on project priorities. All optimizations applicable to a project type are included in a project's scoring. Let's take a closer look into WELL features for a few examples. Here, you can see a few features marked as P for Preconditions under water concept. Here is another feature for fruits and vegetables marked as O for Optimization under the nourishment concept.
Each feature of the WELL Building Standard is attributed to the human body systems, such as the cardiovascular and digestive systems that are intended to benefit from its implementation. Here in an example of feature one for Air Quality Standards, that is a precondition and address cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, nervous and respiratory systems. WELL Certification is awarded at three levels, silver, gold, and platinum.
WELL Silver Certification is achieved when all preconditions are met. Gold and Platinum level certifications can be achieved by pursuing additional optimization features. WELL Certification process involves five steps. The first step begins with registration through WELL online, similar to LEED online. The second step is documentation for evidence of compliance with preconditions and pursuit optimizations.
The third step is the performance verification which involves a series of rigorous onsite post-occupancy performance tests performed or overseen by a WELL assessor. Performance verification occurs at least one month after certificate of occupancy at a minimum 50% occupancy. These tests include spot checks, onsite verification, third party laboratory tests that include water contaminants, formaldehyde, air quality, water quality, and more.
The project teams I hear from tell me that tests are the most challenging part of the WELL Certification process. Also, be prepared for the added cost for testing. The fourth step is the certification once the project has successfully documented compliance with all features and passed performance verification. Different from many other rating systems that conclude document requirements with the certification award, WELL requires project teams to provide a proof of maintenance, ongoing environmental results, and occupant surveys on an annual basis.
The last step, recertification, must be completed after three years to ensure compliance over time. For Core and Shell projects no recertification is required. The WELL Building Standard is designed to work smoothly with green building rating systems, especially LEED and the Living Building Challenge. Although the number of projects pursuing WELL Building Standard is increasing rapidly, it is still not as commonly used as LEED Certification and other green building rating systems.
If you're not involved in a WELL Building project, this should not stop you from learning about the WELL Building Standard or from being inspired by the guidance it provides in your career while adding value to the services you provide for your clients.
- Defining green buildings and their benefits
- Green building components and rating systems
- How LEED certification works
- BREEAM and Green Globes
- Energy Star and Zero Energy buildings
- WELL Building Standard and the Fitwel system
- Attaining green building credentials