The Basics Behind the WELL Building Standard

January 26, 2022 | Industry Standards

Over the past few decades, LEED has become a central standard for measuring how a given building impacts its surroundings and environment. But what about that same building’s impact on the people who live and work within it? This is where the WELL Building Standard comes into play.

Any building owner or manager naturally has their occupants’ best interests in mind. That’s why a 2001 EPA study was so drastic: pollutants, it found, were up to five times higher in buildings than in typical outdoor situations. Prioritizing air quality indoors thus became a major focus over the past two decades, with building construction trends shifting towards designing for and protecting its occupants.

The WELL Standard seeks to accomplish exactly that. Following is an exploration of its basics and importance in any type of building setting.

What is the WELL Building Standard?

Administered and managed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the WELL Building Standard is a roadmap for creating interior spaces that advance the health and well-being of anyone inside them. First developed in 2014, the standard has proliferated around the world, covering a total of 3 billion square feet in almost 100 countries. 

The IWBI’s core purpose is to evaluate buildings, providing certification seals based on a wide range of spaces:

  • Whole buildings
  • Partial spaces within a building
  • Commercial spaces
  • Residential spaces
  • Owner-occupied spaces
  • Leased spaces within a building

In other words, it’s a certification for any type of building, designed to create goals and standards that are applicable within the global built environment, designed to improve the ways in which we live and work. Features on which the certification is based vary slightly based on the type of building, but all follow a relatively rigid structure with specific criteria that have been refined with the 2018 release of the WELL V2™ standard.

The Features of the WELL V2 Standard

Built on the global learning and experience of the concept in the four years after its original release, WELL V2 includes the following 10 distinct categories that all play a role in whether or not a given building can achieve WELL V2 certification:

  1. Air – including anything from air quality to a smoke-free environment, ventilation design, construction pollution management, and more.
  2. Water – including drinking water and indicators that show that quality along with basic water quality control management procedures and documentation.
  3. Nourishment – this only pertains to buildings that sell or provide food and beverage. 
  4. Light – basic exposure to light promotes visual, mental and biological health. Lighting design that maximizes natural lighting sources and provides visual comfort for occupants is part of that approach.
  5. Movement – facilitated through the potential of physical activity as well as ergonomic workstation designs that reduce strain on the body and prolong physical health.
  6. Thermal Comfort – achieved through optimizations like thermal zoning and radiant thermal management to make thermal conditions acceptable for the majority of occupants.
  7. Sound – focusing on the importance of sound mapping in a way that prevents acoustic disturbance from noises such as HVAC, non-sound isolated spaces, and more.
  8. Materials – with a focus on preventing any individuals in the space from being exposed to potentially dangerous materials like copper, lead, and asbestos. 
  9. Mind – which includes both promoting positive mental health education and measures and incorporating the natural environment into the space to create a more calming, unique atmosphere.
  10. Community – focusing on a building environment that promotes collaboration while also creating an environment that responds to any type of emergency situation.

Within these 10 categories are 108 features (or aspects) on which the building is scored and the certification is based. Scoring is based on points.

In addition to the 10 categories, buildings can score well on innovation, Though innovation is not a WELL category it can improve a building’s overall score. The IWBI has created a comprehensive list of each of these features, including potential optimizations for each, on its website.

At their best, they can all be summarized by the organization’s mantra: to create, promote, and reward spaces that can, “make everyone, everywhere, healthier, happier and more productive.”

Achieving WELL Building Certification

Of course, achieving WELL Certification requires more than simply following a few standards. Buildings looking to achieve this sought-after qualification are categorized by a point system, based on how well they achieve these 108 features. The total points are then judged as follows:

  • WELL Bronze: earned with at least 40 points across the 10 categories.
  • WELL Silver: earned with at least 50 points, at least one of which needs to come in each category.
  • WELL Gold: earned with at least 60 points, at least two of which need to come in each category.
  • WELL Platinum: earned with at least 80 points, at least three of which need to come in each category.

The IWBI dispatches performance testing units for each building looking to achieve certification, which judges buildings they review based on the 108 features within 10 categories. Organizations acting as WELL performance testers undergo a rigorous training program to ensure that they follow a non-biased, scientific, data-based approach with each building they review.

The Rising Importance of the WELL Standard

In a world where safety and well-being are rising to the forefront of both the workforce and employers, the WELL Building Standard provides an impartial seal of approval for building owners, managers, and construction firms looking to both maximize and showcase the quality of their interior spaces. Following its guidelines, and achieving certification, can make all the difference in creating a better, safer, and future-ready environment.

As a rising player in the built environment, FreeAxez is committed to providing more flexible spaces. Prioritizing the needs of people enhances well-being, which is the basis for WELL Building standards. That prioritization has led to the innovative design of FreeAxez’ flagship product, the Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® system. Visit the Gridd product page to learn more.

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