With the average American spending roughly 90% of their time indoors, building qualities can significantly impact the overall well-being of its occupants. But it’s difficult to determine how a facility positively or negatively impacts its occupants’ well-being. So, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) created the WELL Building Standard. It helps measure, certify, and monitor performance metrics that impact human health.

What is WELL Building Standard?

The WELL Building Standard uses a performance-based system that measures, certifies, and monitors features in the built environment that can impact human well-being. It was developed by the IWBI, which leads the world in promoting health and well-being in facilities and communities as a public benefit corporation. 

Designed to optimize the health and wellness of building occupants, the WELL Building Standard covers various aspects of a facility’s design, construction, and operations.

Is WELL the same as LEED?

The WELL Building Standard and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system are both third-party certification programs for buildings. However, they are not the same and have some significant differences.

LEED focuses on the environmental performance of a facility, including its energy efficiency, water use, and materials selection. The WELL Building Standard is focused on the health and well-being of the facility’s occupants. It aims to improve air and water quality, lighting, thermal comfort, and other factors that impact human health and productivity.

Additionally, the WELL Building Standard uses a performance-based approach. This means it focuses on verifying that a facility meets certain standards and criteria through testing and measurement, rather than relying solely on design and documentation. LEED, on the other hand, uses a points-based system, where buildings earn points for meeting specific requirements. Under LEED, buildings can achieve different levels of certification depending on the number of points they earn.

Building stakeholders considering either a LEED or WELL certification can also consider a BREEAM certification or ESG Green Building certification. All of these certifications offer unique advantages and drawbacks.

What are the concepts of WELL v2?

WELL v2 is the second version of the WELL Building Standard, developed by the IWBI. Compared to the first version, it expanded from seven to ten concepts of building well-being. Originally, the standard contained the following aspects:

  • Air: Maintaining good air quality through measures such as controlling indoor air pollutants and providing adequate ventilation.
  • Water: Ensuring that buildings have a reliable supply of potable water, as well as reducing the risk of waterborne contaminants.
  • Nourishment: Promoting healthy eating and drinking habits by providing access to nutritious options and reducing the availability of unhealthy options.
  • Light: Providing access to natural light and controlling artificial light levels to support circadian rhythms and optimize visual comfort.
  • Fitness: Promoting physical activity by providing access to fitness facilities and encouraging active transportation.
  • Comfort: Maintaining a comfortable indoor environment by controlling temperature, humidity, and other factors that affect comfort.
  • Mind: Promoting mental health and well-being by providing access to green spaces and other resources that support mental health.

The second version, WELL v2, added these three concepts:

  • Community: Ensuring access to community resources such as accommodations for new parents.
  • Sound: Identifying building aspects that impact the acoustical comfort of occupants and minimizing their impact.
  • Materials: Reducing exposure to hazardous materials and ingredients in a facility by restricting the use of products known to be toxic.

How does the certification process work?

Receiving a WELL certification includes several steps, including registering a project, completing a pre-assessment, undergoing a document review, and conducting on-site inspections.

What type of features?

A building that meets the seven or ten WELL certification concepts must implement specific attributes. Each concept carries a set of features that improve the facility’s score for that category. For example, the air category includes ventilation effectiveness, air filtration, and pesticide management.

What type of concepts?

To get a WELL certificate, a building must meet all seven categories of concepts for the first version of WELL and all ten categories for the second version of WELL. A WELL certification shows that a building offers a range of features and concepts such as air quality, water quality, healthy food options, natural light, opportunities for physical activity, thermal comfort, and acoustics.

How can I get a WELL certificate?

Registering a project for WELL certification requires the owner or design team to submit an application and pay a fee. The pre-assessment is a self-assessment that helps the project team identify any gaps between the project’s current design and the requirements of the WELL Building Standard.

The document review is an evaluation of the project’s plans and specifications based on the information provided in the pre-assessment. The on-site inspections are conducted by a WELL assessor and verify that the building meets the standard’s requirements.

If the project passes the document review and on-site inspections, it will be awarded a WELL certificate. The certificate is valid for three years, after which the building must undergo a recertification process to maintain its WELL certification.

How to measure well-being in buildings

Measuring well-being in facilities involves collecting data on various aspects of the structure and its design. It can include assessments of the building’s air quality, water quality, lighting, fitness, comfort, and more.

This data is then analyzed by a certified WELL assessor. They use the data to determine the building’s overall level of wellness and whether it meets the requirements for WELL certification.

The future of WELL

Proponents of the WELL certification expect continued growth and expansion. As awareness of the importance of wellness in buildings increases, the demand for WELL-certified buildings will likely increase. This demand will result in more facility owners trying to earn the WELL certification.

In addition, the standards and requirements for WELL certification will likely continue to evolve as the IWBI and other organizations work to improve and refine the certification process. Overall, the future of the WELL building certification looks bright, and it is likely to continue to be an important tool for promoting healthy indoor environments around the world.