In recent years the WELL Building Standard has been gaining momentum in the design industry and focuses on creating built environments that can enhance users’ health and wellbeing. It is the first set of principles founded upon evidence-based medical and scientific research around building practice, design and development with a goal of improving human health.
The WELL Building Standard was first applied to condominiums by real estate developers but has since grown. V1, the current iteration, is optimized for both commercial and institutional facilities with applications to new builds, large-scale renovations, improvements and core and shell developments.
The Senior Vice President of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), Michelle Moore explains, “Our mission is to bring human health to the forefront of building practices and reinvent buildings so they are not only better for the environment, but also for the people in them.”
The idea being that in the past sustainability primarily focused on a building’s direct impact on the climate and environment. Yet, humans spend 90% of their time in built environments, which requires these buildings be optimized to the benefit of the individual’s health. To do so involves bringing the concept of wellness into the design process from the start.
The building standards are the product of seven years of research and development that amalgamates scientific and medical research, environmental health discourse, behavioural influences, health outcomes, and risk factors tied to the regional demographics that can affect health. WELL also embodies current standards and best practices in order to complement and clarify existing requirements set by governing bodies.
Investing in WELL has the potential to measurably improve experience, health, wellbeing, productivity, and happiness of the building users and/or occupants. This is because it places emphasis on people during the entire building process from design and construction to operations and development.
Structures have a strong affect on both job performance and satisfaction of the user; this can be magnified due to the significant amount of time people spend in built environments. Ultimately, costs associated with the building (design, construction, maintenance and operations) are considerably outweighed by costs incurred in relation to personnel. Therefore, incorporating WELL provides a meaningful return on investment because by focusing on occupant health it helps reduces the amount of resources channelled into personnel.
Building Performance Categories
Wellness is a completely personal experience, with meaning and actions that vary from person to person. An essential part of WELL addresses this with a detailed set of features that relate to the individual. These features are also used as a common framework for the measurement of wellness in built environments.
As the WELL Building Standard is a performance-based certification system it breaks down performance requirements into seven categories relevant to occupant health and wellbeing for measurement. They are:
WELL Certification Levels
Similar to the process behind LEED Certification, WELL Certification can be achieved when a project meets the set Preconditions. Certification starts at the silver level with higher levels reached by incorporating additional Optimization Features.
Silver Level Certification
The project meets 100% of the WELL Preconditions that apply to the type of project in all performance categories.
Gold level certification
This level is attained when 100% of WELL Preconditions are met and an additional 40% of the Optimization Features.
Platinum Level Certification
Like the previous levels, this certification requires that the project meet 100% of the WELL Preconditions and at least 80% of the Optimization Features.
Both standards use sustainability as a platform with WELL taking it a few steps further and expanding on the metrics that relate to users and inhabitants. With the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and IWBI collaborating those seeking LEED and WELL certification will get a streamlined process during registration and the certification process. Additionally, GBCI will provide third-party certification for WELL projects.
WELL principles have been practiced throughout the United States of America and other countries around the world and they are now making their way into Canada. A recent proposal we are working on requires that we carry a consultant for WELL Healthcare. As the building standard continues to grow and impact design it’s likely more and more projects will require WELL Accredited Professionals on team and seek WELL certification.