Green: An Introduction to the WELL Building Standard

Judhajit Chakraborty

Judhajit Chakraborty. Assoc. AIA, LEED® AP WSP Built Ecology

As a continuation to my last article, this month’s article will focus on the newest baby in Building Environmental Standards, the Well Building Standard. This was another hot topic at the Center for Built Environment’s biannual symposium that was held in April 2015 at UC Berkeley. A whole afternoon session was dedicated to WELL, LEED and Living Building Challenge building metrics. Though we are all very much aware of LEED and slowly but surely getting acquainted with Living Building Challenge, WELL Building Standard brings to the table a whole new level of qualitative metrics aiming exclusively at human health and wellness. The WELL Building Standard is founded by DELOS living, a private for profit organization that does research, consulting, real estate development and innovative solutions for the built environment. Furthermore, they have big names such as Deepak Chopra, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rick Fredrizzi (CEO, USGBC), Jason McLennan (CEO, International Living Future Institute), Nicholas LaRusso (Director of Mayo Clinic) et al. in its advisory board and also has been endorsed by none other than former President Bill Clinton.

So, what is the WELL Building Standard about?

“The WELL Building Standard sets performance requirements in seven categories relevant to occupant

health in the built environment – Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. WELL

Certified™ spaces can help create a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep

patterns, and performance of its occupants”- Well Building Standard. It marries the best practices in

design and construction with evidence-based health and wellness interventions.

Similar to LEED, it is based on performance and requires a passing score in each of the above mentioned

seven categories which involves comprehensive documentation and an onsite audit. Similar to LEED, there are three levels of certification- Silver, Gold and Platinum. The standard currently can be applied to three types of projects: new construction and major renovations; tenant improvement; and core and shell development.

The certification process platform is provided by GBCI (Green Building Certification Inc.) which

administers the LEED processes as well.

An interesting aspect of this standard lies in its connection to the human body systems and that adherence to the standard would benefit the human body. The WELL Building Standard addresses factors that are vital to the healthy functioning of the cardiovascular system, digestive system, endocrine system, immune system, integumentary system (skin, hair and nails), muscular system, nervous system, reproductive system, respiratory systems, skeletal systems and urinary systems.

For example, under the Air Category – The intent is to achieve medically validated performance-based

thresholds for healthy indoor air quality. This intent calls for:

■ Effective air cleaning and treatment practices, including particle filters, UV sanitation, and activated

carbon air filters.

■ Ideal air change rates and air distribution.

■ Continual air quality measurement tied to air changes with feedback to the user.

■ Minimization of source chemicals or pathogens in furniture, cleaning products, or other indoor uses.

■ Sound design practices to avoid trapping contaminants or creating indoor air problems.

■ Construction protocol to protect ducts and indoor air quality during construction.

Adherence to these factors may improve upper respiratory health, allergies and asthma, chronic fatigue,

eye irritations, headaches and focus issues, odor control, multiple chemical sensitivities etc.

Another interesting feature is that a WELL Certification is valid for three years after which it has to undergo a recertification process to verify that the building is performing according to the standard and a certification can be renewed.

The WELL Building Standard doesn’t mandate reduction in energy or water or consumption of any resources. It solely focuses on good air and water quality, good nourishment, balance of the human circadian rhythm, fitness, and design strategies that promote positive and optimal mind and comfort conditions.

It claims to be harmonious to LEED and Living Building Challenge. For sure, the WELL standard has the funding and big names to push it forward and to some extent it is gaining momentum as we can see its participation in all major AEC events. We well may see hospitals and corporate giants embracing the WELL standard in the near future.


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