The WELL Building Standard (WELL) focuses on the people in the building.
Over the last decade, green building standards and standard-setting organizations have made significant strides towards the market transformation of the building industry, resulting in a rapid expansion of green buildings and environmentally conscious building practices throughout the world.
Over the same period, strategies to enhance human health and well-being have played a relatively small role in the evolution of building standards. The time has come to elevate human health and comfort to the forefront of building practices and reinvent buildings that are not only better for the planet, but also for people.
The WELL Building Standard (WELL)
- is the first standard of its kind that focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants.
- identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies that can be implemented by the owners, designers, engineers, contractors, users and operators of a building.
- is based on a thorough review of the existing research on the effects of spaces on individuals and has been advanced through a thorough scientific and technical review.
- requires that the space must undergo a process that includes an on-site assessment and performance testing by a third party.
WELL is the culmination of seven years of rigorous research in collaboration with leading physicians, scientists and industry professionals. Pioneered by Delos, WELL is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and third-party certified through IWBI’s collaboration with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the certification body that administers the LEED Green Building Rating System.
What are the interactions between humans and the built environment? Traditional healthcare delivery systems primarily focus on addressing health after people have already become sick. With rising costs and the increased burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, people are turning to more lifestyle-oriented and preventative approaches to health.
The WELL Building Standard is founded on the understanding that facets of our environment interact with personal, genetic and behavioral factors to shape our overall health and well-being. WELL measures attributes of buildings that impact occupant health by looking at seven factors, or Concepts, relevant to occupant health and well-being: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind:
Air – Clean air is a critical component to our health. Air pollution is the number one environmental cause of premature mortality, contributing to 50,000 premature deaths annually in the United States and approximately 7 million, or one in eight premature deaths Worldwide.
Water – Drinking water contamination is a major public health issue. Many people receive water that has been exposed to potentially harmful levels of biological, chemical and mineral contaminants. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that almost one billion people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide, and two million annual deaths are attributable to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.
Nourishment – Nutrition plays a key role in health maintenance, weight management and chronic disease prevention. However, adherence to the dietary recommendations in the U.S. is poor. Similarly, global dietary patterns are also less than optimal; in many countries, people consume more than 500 calories from added sugars per day.
Light – In addition to facilitating vision, light influences the human body in non-visual ways. Humans and animals have internal clocks that synchronize physiological functions on roughly a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm.
Fitness – Modern transportation, labor saving conveniences and sedentary jobs have created an environment in which millions of people fail to achieve the minimum level of activity necessary to help prevent type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
Comfort – The indoor environment should be a place of comfort. In pursuit of that vision, the WELL Building Standard® focuses on significantly reducing the most common sources of physiological disruption, distraction and irritation and on enhancing acoustic, ergonomic, olfactory and thermal comfort to prevent stress and injury and facilitate comfort, productivity and well-being.
Mind – While mental and physical health are often conceptualized as separate domains, our minds and bodies are inextricably connected. Because the mind plays a vital role in an individual’s overall health and well-being, an atmosphere that supports a healthy mental state can have significant psychological and physical benefits.
If you consider the life of a building over 30 years, personnel costs significantly outweigh any other building and operational cost. By introducing WELL into built spaces, we can significantly reduce personnel costs — health, medical and productivity — in the long run. Clearly long term value can be generated by addressing occupant health in both commercial and residential spaces.
WELL Certification allows building owners and employers to know their space is performing as intended to support human health and wellness. The WELL Building Standard v1 is optimized for commercial and institutional buildings and can be applied to three project typologies: New and Existing Buildings, New and Existing Interiors, Core and Shell Compliance.
WELL works harmoniously with LEED and the Living Building Challenge. IWBI welcomes projects to pursue both LEED and the Living Building Challenge alongside WELL in order to promote both environmental sustainability and human health. A number of overlapping features exist between WELL and both LEED and the Living Building Challenge, which are described in detail in the appendices of the WELL Building Standard. «Working together to optimize building performance for human health and our environment».
The WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) credential is an advanced credential intended for experienced building professionals. The WELL AP ensures to the public, building owners and other building professionals that the credential holder has demonstrated advanced knowledge and proficiency in building wellness and the principles, practices and applications of the WELL Building Standard. A couple of weeks ago I earned the WELL Accredited Professional credential :-).
[Sources: WELL Building Standard® v1, September 2015; WELL Brochure; WELL One pager. Copyright© 2015 by Delos Living LLC. The WELL AP™ trademark is used with permission from the International WELL Building Institute™]