There is no doubt that, in the green building industry, LEED sets the standard, but with the emergence of WELL, LEED is not the only four-letter certification available to green builders. The WELL Building Standard (WELL) is a performance-based system for measuring a building’s impact on human health and well-being. WELL is the first certification of its kind to focus entirely on the health and wellness of building occupants. Like LEED, there are different levels of WELL certification: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
WELL sets performance requirements in seven categories relevant to occupant health:
Air: Poor air quality can lead to asthma, allergies, and other upper respiratory illnesses, as well as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), which is often characterized by headache and fatigue. WELL provides strategies to limit pollutant and contaminant concentrations. This is an area of significant overlap with LEED, which sets high standards for ventilation and indoor air quality.
Water: Clean drinking water is extremely important for human health. Over-reliance on bottled water is definitely bad for the environment, and most likely bad for human health. WELL mandates proper filtration technique and regular testing.
Nourishment: WELL provides design strategies to promote access to healthy food and to empower occupants to make healthy food choices.
Light: The circadian system regulates the physiological processes that control sleep, alertness, and digestion, and indoor lighting can have an extremely disruptive effect on the circadian system. WELL promotes indoor lighting that facilitates vision with minimal disruption to the circadian system.
Fitness: Lack of physical activity is a significant threat to human health, and WELL looks at factors in the built environment that encourage physical activity such as stair accessibility, neighborhood walkability, and another notable overlap with LEED, access to mass transit.
Comfort: WELL seeks to eliminate stressful distractions such as noise and olfactory pollution, while promoting acoustic, ergonomic, and thermal comfort to prevent stress and injury.
Mind: WELL promotes design strategies and workplace policies that contribute to occupants’ good mental health, from opportunities for altruism to providing a beautiful, pleasing environment.
WELL assesses the benefit of each WELL feature on the cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, immune, integumentary, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary systems. For example, stress, unhealthy diets, a lack of exercise and environmental pollutants can negatively affect cardiovascular health. Comfort features, such as sound-masking and optimal ergonomics, help reduce stress. Healthy diets, exercise, and elimination of environmental air pollutants also benefit cardiovascular health.
The Green Business Certification Organization (GBCI) provides third-party certification for both LEED and the WELL building standard, a collaboration between the Well Institute and GBCI to streamline the overlap between WELL and LEED and to further develop the connection between human health and wellness and sustainable design.