The WELL Building Standard®

International Well Building Institute (IWBI)

The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being.

WELL Certified spaces and developments can lead to a built environment that helps to improve the mood, sleep, comfort, nutrition, fitness, and performance of their occupants.

WELL is managed and administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment.

The WELL Building Standard® is third-party certified by the Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI), which administers the LEED certification program and the LEED professional credentialing program.

The WELL and BEAM Plus Green Building Standards

The WELL Building Standard shares some objectives with other established green building rating tools, such as Building Environmental Assessment Method (BEAM) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The developers of WELL were mindful of the interconnection, not only conceptually, but also in how the technical aspects of the program have been developed and how the market would put it to use. Estate developers and designers who are familiar with and see the value of green certification will find that the WELL certification fits seamlessly into the same implementation process.

BEAM Plus is primarily an intrinsic building and performance evaluation, where WELL is assessing occupant experiential factors. There is an overlap of interventions, do not contradict, but prioritize different things. For example, the WELL Building Standard can be thought of as an expansion of focus for the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) category in particular.

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BEAM Plus already addresses many of the big ideas – air quality, lighting, and occupant comfort, which are also rewarded in WELL, but WELL takes the focus further in some aspects and is more biased towards humans.

WELL encompasses other human-centric activities such as eating, moving, and interaction. The support of these activities is not specific to a building’s structure or captured by BEAM Plus, but rather related to layout, company operations, furnishings, and policies.

Green Building Labels are Value Adding

Employee salaries and benefits comprise 90% of a business’ costs and are typically 100-fold more than utilities. Where energy and water efficiency interventions often pay for themselves in lower utility bills, the payback for the investment in health and wellbeing comes in the form of human capital. Even a modest improvement in employee productivity will have significant financial implications many times larger than other financial savings accrued from building performance, such as energy conservation.

Early indications of additional costs to implement are promising. Anecdotal evidence is that added costs for implementation are in the 1% to 2% of CAPEX range, basing the number on the handful of projects that have been built and certified so far and the budget projections for many others that are progressing through the pipeline. If the health and wellness benefits of the environment help eliminate one sick day per year for an employee, or help them to be more productive and engaged because they have a better sense of well-being, then you have your payback.

Many of the WELL interventions are best practice interior design. Therefore given an enlightened, sophisticated design team, they should reasonably be within the scope of a ‘green’ project, particularly if they are targeting a 5- or 6-Star Office or Interiors. Additional costs include fees for registration and an on-site audit, which are scaled according to project size. Other likely costs include specialist testing of air and water, WELL accredited professional consultation, and upgraded lighting.

Getting on the Green Building Band Wagon

The WELL Building Standard certification was released just in 2015 and there are now eight buildings successfully certified with an additional 158 projects registered for certification throughout 18 countries. Roughly half are in North America, but notably, 36 are in China and 17 in Australia.

Another tool in the marketplace is initially confusing, as it can be viewed more as being another ‘category’ or bonus alongside the others for what constitutes a responsible and progressive building. Pursued along with BEAM Plus, the concept of ‘green building performance plus human performance’ will set a new benchmark in the market and differentiate those companies who are tangibly investing in their employees’ wellbeing.


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