WELL Building Standard Measures Health of Buildings
Humans spend almost 90% of our time indoors. Green building certification programs address the health of our indoor environments by eliminating chemicals in products installed indoors and increasing ventilation and filtration requirements. A new standard looks to take this one step further, directly addressing the impact of building interiors on human health.
The WELL Building Standard is an evidence-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and wellbeing. The system looks at seven areas when evaluating an indoor space: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The standard will be administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the same entity that administers the LEED green building program.
WELL is grounded in medical research that demonstrates the connection between buildings and the health and wellness impacts on us as occupants. An on-site post-occupancy performance audit is required for WELL Certification, and re-auditing every three years is required to maintain certification. Developed through consultation with leading medical and building industry practitioners, the WELL Building Standard is currently in pilot.
Air and Water
Indoor air quality and reduction of contaminants are familiar to most green building practitioners, as they are critical in many green building certification programs. Water quality is not usually addressed directly in these programs, however, as they tend to focus more on conservation.
Both air and water quality are part of the performance audit for a building to be WELL certified and maintain that certification. They are tested for initial certification and maintenance. Water quality tests include tracking the amount of bacteria, viruses, chlorine, medications, and other contaminants.
WELL buildings encourage occupants to maintain healthy eating habits by locating near healthy food options, such as supermarkets, and away from convenience food markets. They also look to raise awareness of healthy eating through outreach materials and events.
The quality and timing of light are most important in the WELL Building Standard. Light levels affect our circadian rhythms and can influence productivity and occupant moods. In addition, natural light reduces the potential for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which produces depression-like symptoms in sufferers.
Designers are given credit for including areas specifically for fitness training or locating buildings near such areas to encourage occupants to engage in physical exercise. Individual fitness programs for occupants and attractive stair design are other strategies that can be employed.
Occupant comfort is important for improving concentration and productivity. Factors such as noise pollution, electromagnetic fields, and ergonomics are addressed.
Design and building features that assist with stress management and relaxation are encouraged in the WELL Building Standard. Incorporating elements of the natural world into the built environment promotes the creation of spaces that quiet the mind and help to reduce long-term stress.
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment. They believe that buildings should be developed with humans at the center of design.
Photos courtesy of IWBI