By: Andres Rodriguez-Burns
Humans are spending more and more of their time indoors. Some studies even suggest more than 90% of a person’s day is spent inside. As such, for good or bad, the built environment significantly impacts our health, happiness and productivity. The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) was created, in part, in response to this astonishing insight.
The WELL Building Standard™
WELL is a framework that revolutionizes the way people think about buildings. It explores how design, operations and behaviors within the places where we live, work, learn and play can be optimized to advance human health and well-being. Unlike other rating systems, WELL focuses exclusively on the health and well-being of building occupants. It addresses the performance of buildings as they relate to people and includes strategies in 10 categories: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, and Community. Projects that successfully navigate the certification process may achieve WELL Silver, Gold or Platinum certification.
WELL is administered by the International Well Building Institute™ (IWBI™) and was developed in 2014 by Delos, a wellness and technology firm. It is the result of several years of evidence-based research which initially brought together leaders from the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industries and the medical community. The result is a rating system which takes a holistic approach to occupant health and wellness, and addresses the building design, construction and operation. Since its introduction, WELL has gone from initial launch to over 500 million square feet of registered projects. This equates to 3,961 projects in 58 countries worldwide. WELL, which is designed to include a multitude of project types, allows many organizations to consider certifying their project. Sectors currently range from individual office fit-outs, all the way up to large-scale community developments. In addition to its flexibility, WELL also makes business sense. Savvy organizations use it to increase tenant interest in their property, as a recruiting tool for prospective employees, and to retain current employees as a demonstration of their organizational commitment to providing healthy spaces for their teams.
Advantages of WELL
WELL is different from other certification programs because it’s a performance-based standard. In other words, achieving WELL Certification requires a building to perform as required by the standard, and to be tested by an independent WELL Performance Testing Organization. While this is a paradigm shift, project teams and owners find it refreshing to know that their building operates as intended, and important design and construction decisions have a tangible, positive impact in their occupancy. Ultimately, the value of WELL is manifested in healthier and happier building occupants.
Impacts on AEC Industry
WELL is changing how designers think about buildings, and challenges architects and engineers to take innovative and practical approaches to features like indoor air quality, lighting, thermal comfort and acoustics. The rigorous performance thresholds place additional emphasis on solid design principals. For example, the burden of acceptable indoor air quality is shared by architects and engineers. The importance of specifying low/no VOC materials, furnishings and finishes must be coupled with providing adequate ventilation and filtration of outdoor air in order to create an indoor environment that meets the WELL thresholds. Additionally, WELL challenges architects and engineers to anticipate the needs of occupants. From the design of acoustically sensitive spaces, like quiet rooms, to the incorporation of biophilic elements into the interior design, WELL maintains a balance of prescriptive and quantitative requirements, while allowing designers to have agency in their creative, solution-based approaches.
The Future of WELL
As the fastest growing building rating system, WELL is here to stay. As recently as 2018, the newest version of WELL was released (WELL v2) which included upgrades and expansions on existing features and has been well-received in the AEC industry. WELL is paving the way for health-focused rating systems such as Fitwel, and performance-based programs such as RESET and LEEDv4.1. WELL will continue to evolve and become ever more present in the AEC industry as building occupants come to expect more out of the places they live, work and play.
BranchPattern as WELL Partner
BranchPattern is an industry leader in WELL consulting and certification. Our team is engaged in a variety of WELL projects worldwide and is committed to furthering the mission of the Standard by working with project teams to achieve their certification goals. With one WELL Faculty member, 8 WELL AP’s and a WELL Performance Testing Agent on staff, our team has the expertise and experience to efficiently help clients navigate the WELL Standard. As an approved WELL Performance Testing Agency, BranchPattern provides testing services to help clients meet all performance-based testing requirements in the Standard.
Want to know if your project is a good fit for the WELL Building Standard™? Do you have more questions about WELL Certification or healthy spaces? Connect with Andres Rodriguez-Burns (913-660-5350 / firstname.lastname@example.org).
About Andres Rodriguez-Burns
Since joining the BranchPattern team in 2015, Andres Rodriguez-Burns has advocated for a people-first approach to building design and construction. As a WELL AP, Andres believes that the WELL Building Standard™ is one of the leading frameworks for promoting healthy lifestyles and occupant well-being in the built environment. Furthermore, as one of the first approved 3rd party WELL Performance Testing Agents in the world, he continues his advocacy for the Standard by providing performance testing services for projects and helping clients achieve their certification goals.
BranchPattern is a building consultancy dedicated to creating better built environments through many interwoven specialisms. Our beliefs are rooted in nature which has taught us that true sustainability sits at the intersection of human experience and environmental stewardship. We remain committed to our roots in sustainability and are excited to shift the focus to people with our unique Human-Centered Design approach. Everything we do and why we do it is guided by our longstanding purpose of Improving Life through Better Built Environments.