Blog: Beyond the Building with WELL

The U.S. Green Building Council has taught us that buildings in the U.S. consume about 71% of the total electricity and are responsible for almost 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, and for the past 20 years, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems have provided guidelines to make those buildings more sustainable. As the International Well Building Institute points out, we spend about 90% of our time in buildings; it is clearly time to focus on the health and well-being of those occupants.

As a result of over seven years of research by scientists, doctors, architects, and wellness experts, the WELL Building Standard was launched in 2014 by Delos Living, LLC. WELL is now administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and certification is provided by the Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI). Unlike LEED certification, WELL certification involves performance verification via a site visit by a WELL assessor. WELL was designed to work with (rather than instead of) other green building rating systems such as LEED, Green Star or BREEAM.

What is the WELL Building Standard?

WELL covers seven concepts that address not only building design and operation, but also the impact that those categories have on health and well-being. Each concept has Preconditions and Optimizations; Preconditions must be achieved for certification while Optimizations are optional. The concepts are Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort, Mind and Innovation.

The Air concept establishes requirements in buildings that promote clean air and reduce sources of indoor air pollution. Strategies such as smoking bans, ventilation effectiveness, VOC reduction, air filtration, mold control and cleaning are addressed here.

WELL promotes safe and clean Water through the implementation of proper filtration and testing for various contaminants. Water treatment and drinking water promotion are optimization strategies that are addressed in this concept.   

The availability of fresh, wholesome food, limiting unhealthy ingredients, and encouraging better eating habits are all components of the Nourishment concept; everything from food allergies, contamination, nutrition information, advertising, and serving sizes.

The Light concept provides guidelines that minimize disruption to the body’s circadian system, enhance productivity, and support good sleep quality. Light design, glare control, color, and daylighting are covered here.

Occupant Fitness is promoted via the integration of physical activity into everyday life and discouraging sedentary behaviors. Strategies such as activity incentive programs, inclusion of physical activity spaces within a building and active furnishings such as standing desks can be found here.

Creating distraction free, productive and comfortable indoor environments is the intent of the Comfort feature. Preconditions and Optimizations include accessible design, sound masking, ergonomic desks, and seating, as well as thermal and olfactory comfort.

Concerns of the Mind are addressed in this feature through the inclusion of biophilia inside the building, adaptable spaces, policies that promote healthy sleep cycles, family support, stress and addiction treatment, and organizational transparency.

There are always some strategies that haven’t been considered yet, or are unique to a project, and those can be submitted in the Innovation feature.

Of course this isn’t a comprehensive list, and much more information about the WELL Building Standard can be found at:

As we mentioned, the WELL Building Standard not only addresses the design and operations of buildings, but also how they impact and influence human behaviors related to health and well-being. If you are considering WELL certification, or are interested in learning more, our professional team members are available to answer questions or to help you through this process. Contact us today at [email protected] to get started.

Learn more about the WELL Standard from this Delos video

WELL Standard Educational Resources

Here are some free educational resources if you are interested in learning more about WELL.

Introduction to the WELL Building Standard

Hosting the Client Conversation about the WELL Building Standard

Performance Verification (Formerly WELL Commissioning)

WELL Typologies and Pilots