The WELL Standard: The Heart of Buildings

Posted On: 
Jun 6, 2018
The WELL Standard: The Heart of Buildings

Building and design professionals often seem to focus on only the shell and infrastructure of a building. LEED deals with the building materials and how it’s put together. If this was an anatomy lesson, we could say LEED is the bones and muscle of a building. That’s a big job, and with so many programs (and acronyms!) available, why add one more to the mix? Because the bones and muscle need a heart to thrive. In the building and design sector, the heart is the WELL Building Standard.

According to the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), “The WELL Building Standard v1 is the first building standard to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in buildings. WELL v1 is a performance-based system for measuring and certifying features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being.” WELL v1 was launched in 2015, fueled by the idea that better buildings help people thrive.

And the IWBI Standard has also just released a pilot for the WELL Building Standard v2, adding expansions and additions.

A Short History of WELL

The WELL Standard is the result of seven years of research done by physicians, scientists, and industry professionals, and with the introduction of the new WELL Standard v2, it is only improving over time. It is “administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. IWBI has joined forces with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the same organization that administers LEED certification, to provide third-party certification for WELL”. This standard that can be taken seriously and has solid facts to support it. This is important, since this is new territory for the building industry. Taking the inhabitants health and well-being into consideration doesn’t often rate up there with the health and well-being of the building. But WELL is making it possible to change that, and to offer resources to do that.

This is an innovative move toward a balance between work, where we typically spend the majority of our awake time, and our personal health and wellness. With 90% of our time spent indoors, on average, if our nutrition, fitness, mood, and sleep can be improved by being AT work, then our performance both professionally and personally improves. The Concepts addressed in the WELL Building Standard v2—air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, and community—are done so through design, operations, and behavior and can be applied to many real estate sections. The great thing for manufacturers is the current WELL Building Standard is geared for commercial and institutional office buildings. This means that many manufacturers who think they can only be LEED specified actually have WELL specification opportunities too! Plus, with more sectors being approved soon, the WELL options will be growing in the future.

LEED and WELL Accreditation

WELL and LEED are similar in that they both allow buildings to be registered for certification, and they have an accreditation system for associates. WELL uses APs (Accredited Professionals) while LEED starts with GAs (Green Associates), with further accreditation available. In a previous blog, How to Get LEED Certified, we discussed the process for LEED accreditation (FYI—don’t let the title fool you—people are credentialed NOT certified)! In future blogs, we’ll delve into the WELL process. From a product manufacturer position, having sales reps that are both LEED and WELL credentialed is a fantastic move toward specification. And as far as the LEED GA exam goes, a previous blog 3 Tools to Make the GBCI Exam Process a Piece of Cake, is available for reference.

As far as building certification is concerned, WELL works in harmony with LEED and the IWBI welcomes LEED and WELL projects to work alongside each other. WELL and LEED share a number of overlapping features, and third-party certification for WELL is provided through the International WELL Building Institute’s (IWBI) collaboration with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the same organization that administers LEED certification. It is understandable that a partnership can easily be forged between these two programs.

How Does WELL Affect Specification?

WELL Standard v2 includes a scoring and certification ladder to achieve different levels, much like LEED. As the WELL Standard becomes more known and adopted, it will likely be incorporated into more building projects. Product specification for WELL projects benefits by the same steps as LEED projects, a process discussed in two previous blogs, How to Get Specified by Architects (Part 1 and Part 2). The IWBI also offers an excellent resource, Manufacturer’s Guide to WELL, that goes in-depth on how your product can support and work with WELL.

If becoming a WELL AP is something that you’re interested in, there are many study resources available via the IWBA, GBCI, and USGBC. And as always, don’t forget that a great starting point to help with product specification is to first become a LEED Green Associate. Our LEED Exam Prep course can get you started toward that achievement at no cost.

Are you familiar with the WELL Building Standard? If so, how have you worked it into your product specification efforts?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank