June 29, 2022

WELL Building Standard Part 2: What’s WELL All About?

Recently we posted about the organizational benefits of designing for health and wellness within the built environment. In this post we will give a more in-depth overview of the WELL Building Standard for healthy spaces.

What is the WELL Building Standard®?

The WELL Building Standard, developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), is a vehicle for buildings and organizations to deliver more thoughtful and intentional spaces that enhance human health and well-being. The standard provides a framework for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment.

The current standard, WELL v2, is founded on the following principles:

  • Equitable – Aims to benefit a variety of people, including and especially disadvantaged or vulnerable populations.
  • Global – Proposed interventions that are feasible, achievable, and relevant across many applications throughout the world.
  • Evidence-based – Draws upon diverse and rigorous body of research across varying disciplines, validated by a collaborative body of experts, including IWBI advisors.
  • Technically Robust – Defines industry best practice and validates strategies through performance verification and a rigorous third-party verification process.
  • Customer focused – Sponsors the success of WELL users through dedicated coaching services, dynamic resources, and an intuitive platform for navigating the journey.
  • Resilient – Keeps pace with advances in research, science, technology, and society, continuously improving by integrating new findings.

How Does it Work?

The WELL Building Standard provides a rating system that is designed to accommodate a variety of project types and sectors. It is intended to grow in specificity and specialty over time, adapting to accommodate diverse project types and geographies, and in response to new evidence and ever-evolving public health imperatives. The Standard includes ten concepts, each consisting of features with distinct health intents. The concepts include:

  1. Air – Aims to achieve high levels of indoor air quality across a building’s lifetime through diverse strategies that include source elimination or reduction, active and passive building design and operation strategies, and human behavior interventions.
  2. Water – Covers aspects of the quality, distribution, and control of liquid water in a building. It includes features that address the availability and containment thresholds of drinking water, as well as features targeting the management of water to avoid damage to building materials and environmental conditions.
  3. Nourishment – Requires the availability of fruits and vegetables and nutritional transparency. It encourages the creation of food environments, where the healthiest choice is the easiest choice.
  4. Light – Promotes exposure to light and aims to create lighting environments that promote visual, mental, and biological health.
  5. Movement – Promotes physical activity in everyday life through environmental design, policies, and programs to ensure that movement opportunities are integrated into the fabric of our culture, buildings, and communities.
  6. Thermal Comfort – Promotes human productivity and provides a maximum level of thermal comfort among building users through improved HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) system design and control, meeting individual thermal preferences.
  7. Sound – Aims to bolster occupant health and well-being through the identification and mitigation of acoustical comfort parameters that shape occupant experiences in the built environment.
  8. Materials – Aims to reduce human exposure, whether direct or through environmental contamination, to chemicals that may impact health during the construction, remodeling, furnishing and operation of buildings.
  9. Mind – Promotes mental health through policy, program, and design strategies that seek to address the diverse factors that influence cognitive and emotional well-being.
  10. Community – Aims to support access to essential healthcare, build a culture of health that accommodates diverse population needs and establishes an inclusive, engaged occupant community.

How Can It Be Used in Healthcare and Workplace Design?

The last few years have taught us much about our world, geo-political dynamics, and the community in which we live. Many of us have come to appreciate and embrace the importance of social connection, and have recalibrated our personal and professional priorities with greater emphasis on health and well-being.

We have learned our workplace needs to be agile, flexible, and adaptable for changes in how and where we work. For most of us, the central workplace remains the primary source of social connection with colleagues and business partners. This in-person connection enables positive team collaboration, offers personal and professional development through mentoring and learning, and allows organizations to shape and mold culture in ways that advance their missions. Working fully-remote can be a significant barrier to these dynamics, and organizations have struggled to maintain their desired culture, talent engagement, and resulting brand positioning.

As organizations have adopted a hybrid approach offering both in-person and remote work modes, there is greater focus on how the built environment can support and enable an organization’s desired state. While the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard of 20 years ago set the bar for how buildings are constructed and operated in a more sustainable manner, WELL builds on that standard and adds greater focus on the occupants. As costs for utilities, materials, equipment, and employee benefits increase, it is imperative to pursue strategies that leverage these investments to positively impact the individual.

The role that buildings play in human health and well-being has never been more evident or important. Thanks to an evolving evidence base, we understand more about the relationship between the built or physical environment and human health. We know how to create spaces that enhance, not hinder, health and well-being. We can measure and improve the quality of our air, water, and light. We can design environments that fuel our bodies, move us, keep us connected, inspire our work, and facilitate a good night’s sleep. With WELL, we can now put this into practice as we aspire to transform buildings and organizations in ways that advance health and well-being, helping people thrive.

Progressive Companies has WELL accredited professionals throughout the firm. We’d love to answer any questions you have about WELL Building Standard or discuss a project you have in mind.