November 16, 2020

What Is a WELL Building and How to Get Certified

Modern indoor office space with tall glass windows looking out a green trees and large ciy skyline indicating WELL Building standards

The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS) states that we spend approximately 90% of our time in indoor environments. 

After residences, that means that people spend most of their time in businesses, offices, or learning environments, making it important that these indoor spaces do not compromise the health and well-being of people. 

According to the CDC, our physical and social environments are amongst the largest determinants of health.

What Is the WELL Building Standard

The WELL building standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being. 

Managed by the IWBI (International WELL Building Institute), it is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on the health and well-being of occupants.

WELL uses medical and related data that explores the connection between buildings and the people who work at, learn in, or otherwise use them.

The WELL building standard has evolved out of another certification system, LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

LEED is primarily focused on responsibly sourcing healthy materials to promote sustainable building practices. This standard measures the extent to which a building is “green,” sustainable, and healthy. It provides buildings with a framework they can use to implement measures regarding energy savings, water efficiency, and CO2 emissions reduction, for example. 

This way a building can effectively work and change to get LEED certified. The LEED standard is a first step towards healthier buildings and provides a solid base for a sustainable future.

While the LEED standard focuses on the health of buildings, the WELL building standard takes the next step and focuses on the health and well-being of the people in these buildings.

The WELL standard starts where LEED leaves off. 

According to PCMA, Jessica Cooper, IWBI’s chief commercial officer says, 

“WELL is focused exclusively on people and, specifically, the ways that buildings, and everything in them, can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance, not compromise, our health and wellness.”

How to Become WELL Building Certified 

The WELL Certification is based on performance and requires a passing score in each of the seven categories of the WELL Building Standard. 

These categories include:

  • Air: Promoting clean air and minimizing indoor air pollution.
  • Water: Availability of clean and safe water.
  • Light: Illumination guidelines for enough natural light.
  • Comfort: Designs for ergonomic, but also acoustic comfort.
  • Nourishment: Access to healthy and fresh food to support good nutrition.
  • Fitness: Providing opportunities for physical activity.
  • Mind: Design and technology to optimize emotional health.

A building can get WELL certified by an independent, third-party organization, Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI). 

A WELL certification is awarded at one of three levels: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. To earn Silver, you must meet all the preconditions. To earn Gold, you must earn 40% of the applicable optimizations, as well as all preconditions and to earn Platinum you must meet all preconditions and 80% of the applicable optimizations.

To reach these passing scores, multiple measures can be implemented. When building new buildings, the seven categories can be considered beforehand.

This way, the design can include large windows to provide natural light or systems for good ventilation. However, existing buildings can make changes to improve their scores too, like providing a variety of workspaces, height-adjustable desks, or promoting healthy food.

Standards are being applied in 3,782 projects across 58 countries and these numbers are only increasing.

The Manhattan headquarters of Structure Tone was the first WELL-certified project in New York City. They introduced project features like interior fitness opportunities, water filters at all taps, and noise reduction with the help of acoustical consultants. These changes helped the office to achieve its WELL-certified Silver rating.

In another example, the CBRE headquarters in Madrid were awarded the WELL certificate on the Gold level in 2016.

Their office was designed to stimulate all five senses of visitors and occupants and is now considered one of the top 50 companies to work for in Spain. They achieved the Gold level by incorporating features such as planted walls, relaxation spaces, and offering Yoga and Pilates classes.

To get your building WELL certified, it is important to focus on changes that will help improve performance in all seven categories having an overall positive effect on any person spending time inside a building. 

Not only can becoming WELL certified boost the quality of your indoor space, it can add to the overall healthy and clean perception of your building, making consumers and workers feel safe, thus increasing productivity. 

Why WELL Buildings Are Important

Since we spend so much time indoors, it is important that these environments can aid in both our health and our well-being. 

A lot of factors affect the health, happiness, and productivity of a building’s occupants. Negative effects can be caused by staying immobile for extended periods, poor air quality, stress, lack of natural light, improper food choices, etc. The built environment shapes and influences all these factors.

According to Forbes, bad lighting can cause a variety of bad health effects, such as fatigue, eye strain, headaches, or even migraines. 

Sufficient natural lighting is crucial to ensure the health of building occupants, which is increasingly becoming a priority for both occupants and owners. 

Another study by the World Health Organization shows that often even 10-15 minutes of natural sunlight can increase the production of serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone.” 

Incorporating big windows in a building design or even introducing natural light lamps into the office can in this way contribute to the health and happiness of occupants.

Besides light, air is also a vital component in the well-being of people. 

Aside from that, viruses can stay airborne for up to three hours, and without proper ventilation the risk of transmission increases.

Ensuring proper indoor air quality is therefore a tried-and-true method to fight against disease; WELL focuses on this in their category ‘air.’

In providing cleaner air, autonomous cleaning equipment can be a great asset. 

Floors are the largest horizontal surface in buildings and keeping the dirt, dust, debris and toxins. When left to sit on floors, these particles can get brushed back into our air and can have severe outcomes on people's health.

Cobi 18, an autonomous floor scrubber, helps cleaning teams clean consistently, efficiently, and effectively. WHile Cobi cleans the floors and helps reduce particles from being pushed back into the air, cleaning teams can focus on other critical tasks, like dusting and wiping surfaces, that can also help reduce the spread of toxins.

Wellbeing of Employees Leads to Improved Productivity and Better Results

According to other research, health can directly increase general output, but also yearly and general career output. 

More physical energy and mental acuity lead to increased productivity, and reducing absences caused by illness can help improve yearly profits as well.

Working in environments that stimulate health and wellbeing can in this way contribute to more productive staff members.

For example, CBRE Madrid reported that 80% of their employees believed their new office enabled them to be more productive. 

Not only do WELL-certified spaces contribute to the productivity of employees, but they can also help stimulate the creativity of workers. Symantec, (now known as NortonLifeLock) reported that 77% of employees feel the space fosters more collaboration and socialization. 

This is a long-term benefit, but generally, WELL-buildings focus on creating environments that stimulate people to stay engaged and collaborate during their workday.

Collaborating and discussing with co-workers can lead to new insights and ideas, which contribute to better results.

ICE Cobotics is an industry-leading technology and cleaning equipment provider specialzing in automation and all-inclusive subscriptions. Contact Us for more information.

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