Getting a green building designation is quickly becoming a must-have for developers. The benefits of sustainable development are clear, ranging from energy cost savings and improved ROI to lower environmental impact and higher occupant health levels.
When it comes to health, there are several factors that can have a significant impact on the wellness of building occupants.
- Air quality and ventilation
- Thermal comfort
- Access to natural light
- Ease of movement
While there are a number of standards and best practices for most of these, there were few dedicated solely to occupant health and wellness. For example, the LEED Standard (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a framework for developing cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings.
However, LEED is more concerned with buildings themselves rather than the occupants within. That’s where the WELL Building Standard comes in.
What is the WELL Building Standard?
Developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the standard’s purpose is to ensure buildings incorporate features and best practices to support and improve human health and wellness. According to the IWBI:
“WELL was developed by integrating scientific and medical research and literature on environmental health, behavioral factors, health outcomes and demographic risk factors that affect health with leading practices in building design, construction, and management.”
Let’s take a closer look at the standard and how it divides its goal of improving health and wellness into a series of core concepts.
The WELL Building Standard: Core Principles
As research into the connection between indoor environmental conditions and health issues matured, it became clear that “sick building syndrome” is a key cause of some long-term health issues, lost productivity and efficiency, and the costs associated with employee absence.
IWBI was founded by a diverse group of individuals to address this. They recognized that despite the fact that most people spend 90% of their time indoors, there were no standards to specifically promote occupant health and wellness.
Developed over the course of six years, WELL establishes a system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring a building’s performance in these key areas. It recognizes that there is enormous value in promoting environments in which people can thrive, and outlines a set of standards building owners must meet and maintain for certification.
How WELL Works
Since WELL adds an extra dimension (human health and wellness) to existing green building standards, it integrates exceptionally well with them. So well, in fact, that WELL is third-party certified by the Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI), the organization responsible for administering the LEED certification program.
So many buildings go through both certification processes concurrently, with performance targets based on a holistic integration of the two systems. WELL certification is based on performance metrics built around even core concepts.
The 7 Core WELL Concepts List
The WELL Air Concept is concerned with overall indoor air quality. It established baseline air quality standards and examines/monitors a wide variety of factors including ventilation effectiveness, air filtration, microbe & mold control, and moisture/humidity management.
The water concept looks at the overall access to and quality of a building’s water supply. It measures factors ranging from the implementation of proper filtration techniques to testing schedules. Other areas of focus include contaminants, water treatment, and the promotion of drinking water.
The WELL building standard includes provisions for the promotion and availability of proper nutrition. It measures performance on the availability of fresh foods and the promotion of healthy eating habits. This section looks at, among others, availability of food and vegetables, contamination & safe preparation, and the overall food environment.
Recognizing the importance of the body’s circadian rhythm, the light concept examines natural light availability, visual lighting design, electric glare control, light color quality, night lighting, and others.
This section looks at how facilities promote fitness and the provision of opportunities to maximize physical movement. These include the availability of fitness programs, fitness facilities, injury prevention, and structured fitness opportunities.
WELL includes design requirements to create productive and comfortable indoor environments that reduce distractions as much as possible. Areas of focus include sound and noise management, accessibility, thermal comfort, and low-impact flooring.
Finally, WELL strives to maximize mental health (cognitive and emotional) through integrative design principles designed to promote health and wellness awareness, workplace support, stress and addiction treatment opportunities, and overall aesthetics.
WELL Building Standard: Promoting Healthy Buildings
As the demand for green construction rises, the WELL building standard works to ensure that sustainable design practices apply to the people occupying these spaces in addition to setting standards for energy use, environmental footprints, and operational costs.
These seven concepts make WELL a unique and essential set of best practices that should go a long way towards ensuring that building occupants aren’t adversely affected by their workplace environments.
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