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LEED and WELL Certification: Built to Work Together

How many building certifications does your facility have? How many does it need?

For most buildings, one certification is enough, but for some―especially those within institutional design―it makes sense to obtain additional building certifications. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the WELL Building Standard (WELL) are two such programs that work harmoniously.

LEED certification focuses on the sustainability of the building and infrastructure, including energy efficiency, materials, and the environment. While there is signification overlap, WELL adds to the certification components in its specific focus on the health and wellbeing of the building occupants.

Relatively new to the design and construction industry, WELL was pioneered by Delos and is administered by the International Well Building Institute. Its human-centred focus, is intended to bridge the gap between evidence-based research and best practices of design/construction, for better health outcomes.

Originally created to benefit occupants in larger office buildings, the system has since migrated to institutional design, including healthcare and other public assembly buildings. At Parkin, we already see ways in which WELL would be applicable to the design of prisons and schools― and we feel that WELL will continue to evolve to include all institutional buildings.

“WELL fosters a holistic formula for better health and wellness outcomes, leading to improvements in things like employee productivity, engagement and retention.”

Randy Fiser, CEO, American Society of Interior Design

LEED and WELL Synergies

WELL was designed to work harmoniously with LEED; however, while there are a number of overlapping features between LEED and WELL, it is not necessarily a “one-for-one” credit. For project teams seeking dual certification, both systems line up easily and use the same third-party certification: Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI).

Why would a building owner choose to tackle LEED and WELL certifications? According to Phil Williams President of Delos, “The ability for us to link our resource consumption with a high-productivity environment for our people that is healthy for them at the same time puts us right at the opportunity of what success could mean for your organization.” Basically,  “…you can’t have a platinum building without platinum behaviour.”  

 Research, like this report by McKinsey, reveals that improvements that affect human capital have much greater impact on organizations in terms of costs and savings than those that improve only the physical capital. This is reflected by the 3-30-300 rule. This ratio is meant to demonstrate what an organization pays per square foot in total occupancy costs. For each square foot, an organization will pay $3 for utilities, $30 for rent and $300 for employees (including all costs associated with payroll, salaries, benefits, etc.).

Healthcare Design and WELL Certification

For healthcare facilities, ranging from clinics to hospitals to laboratories, WELL certification makes sense and works with evidence-based design. In fact, Delos collaborated with the Mayo Clinic to run the Well Living Lab―a configurable physical space that can mimic different work environments, including healthcare, to test the application of WELL categories.

Studies indicate that healthcare workers experience a high rate of depression and anxiety linked to their career―thanks in part to shift work, long hours, and exposure to stressful situations. With a focus on health and wellness of all occupants within a healthcare facility, WELL certification makes sense. By improving the conditions of healthcare workers, a WELL certification can help reduce burnout, absenteeism, diagnosis and treatment errors―while improving employee retention, productivity and patient satisfaction.

As we move forward, we expect to see WELL certification take a more prominent role in the design of healthcare facilities. A number of pilot programs within healthcare have been initiated and WELL-certified healthcare facilities―like the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine Suite in Ohio―are starting to make the news.

“LEED and WELL will continue to collaborate”, says Rachel Gutter, President of the International WELL Building Institute, “…while staying true to their ultimate goals”. “The true north of LEED is about conservation of resources for the good of the planet,” says Rachel. “The north star of WELL is about enhancing human health and wellness.

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