People spend more than 90% of their workday indoors. It makes sense that companies are committing to improving the health, well-being, productivity, and happiness of building occupants. The WELL Building Standard addresses how a building can be genuinely sustainable and the occupant experience should be measured as rigorously as energy savings. While it is difficult to assign a monetary value to something so abstract, ratings like the newest "WELL Certification” have devised demonstrable ways to determine how green buildings ultimately improve employee health and wellness, along with financially benefiting an organization.
What is the WELL Building Standard?
The WELL Certification, established in 2014, is the result of seven years of research and collaboration between leading scientists, doctors, architects, and wellness thought leaders. This rating system was created by integrating scientific and medical research on environmental health and behavioral factors that affect health with leading practices in building design, construction, and management. The WELL Building Standard applies to buildings, interior spaces, and communities seeking to implement, validate, and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness in seven categories: clean air, water filtration, fresh food offerings, natural light, exercise, optimizing comfort, and cognitive and emotional health.
WELL vs. LEED?
There are some differences between LEED and WELL Certifications. LEED focuses on the conservation of resources through buildings that are beneficial to the environment. WELL concentrates on how structures benefit the people who occupy them by enhancing their health and wellness. The WELL Building Certification requires on-site testing and assessment of sustainable features; something LEED had not incorporated until most recently when they launched LEED v4.1. This site visit accompanies letters of assurance from appropriate professionals overseeing the implementation of specific WELL features during design, construction, and operation.
Recertification is required every three years for projects to maintain WELL certification status, whereas LEED had previously been a one-time certification process. The current version of the WELL Building Standard applies to new and existing buildings, new and existing interiors, and core and shell projects. Furthermore, not all WELL features apply to all building types. The best feature of the WELL rating is the requirement of on-site testing, assessment, and recertification every three years, with the result that “what gets measured, gets improved.”
Who is Adopting WELL?
As of December 2018, 1,162 projects encompassing over 231 million square feet of real estate was registered, pre-certified, or certified under WELL in 43 countries worldwide. The certifications will undoubtedly continue to increase over the next several years. WELL Certification supports a sustainability marketing narrative and provides a competitive advantage in attracting new tenants as well as top employee talent. Building and business developers, owners and operators, facility managers, and corporate and residential tenants have become aware of the return on investment for healthier employees and residents and, in turn, are committing to design spaces that can attract and retain this sought-after workforce.
In a 2016 interview by Huffington Post, Paul Scialla, the founder of the International WELL Building Institute, said it best: “By placing people at the heart of design, construction, operations, and development decisions, we have the ability to add value to real estate assets, generate savings in personnel costs, and enhance the human experience. We truly believe that health is a right, not a privilege.”
Ekta Khuller, LEED AP, WELL AP is an Associate and STG Design's Sustainability Design Manager. With nearly a decade of experience in sustainable design both in Arizona and Texas, Ekta has spearheaded STG’s sustainable design department to ensure each project meets or exceeds its goals for LEED or Austin Energy Green Building.
To find out how the WELL process works, contact Ekta.