The WELL building standard takes a human-centric approach to constructed environments.
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN OCTOBER OF 2016
By Jacob Bourne[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he building revolution in sustainability brought about by LEED has a collaborative counterpart in the WELL Building Standard, which guides design and policies focusing on human health and wellness for offices and other environments. After WELL piloted for two years, it was officially launched October 2014 in New Orleans by its creator, Delos. Today there are projects in over 24 countries registered under the WELL Standard. The 266 publicly registered projects represent about 55 million square feet of space constructed using the Standard, though the numbers are significantly higher including projects registered privately. WELL was envisioned and is emerging as a set of building principles that function cooperatively with LEED to usher in a future of building construction that serves both the needs of environmental sustainability and human health. About 20 percent of WELL Standard features overlap with those of LEED.
“Companies spend 90 percent of their budgets on people as compared to design, construction and operations, so investing in buildings where people work results in a huge return,” said Phil Williams, president, business development, Delos. “Buildings shouldn’t be neutral, they should be designed as an asset to benefit people. Buildings that are geared towards health and wellness are passive-medical interventions. By simply supplying a better building you’re supplying 100 percent participation in a human health plan.”
The WELL Standard measures existing and future buildings by examining the condition of air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind—referred to as the “seven concepts.” The goal is to optimize these values within a building structure so that they facilitate human health and productivity. WELL looks at a variety of factors such as policies in the workplace that promote fitness and whether the physical environment itself facilitates a healthy level of activity for human bodies. Water quality, air purity, healthy food options and distraction-free workspaces are all crucial areas under WELL.
Interest in WELL has been growing steadily among commercial real estate developers and corporations, especially in places such as the Bay Area, where there’s fierce competition to attract and retain top employees. Healthy, comfortable, collaborative workplaces are becoming increasingly important to employers and employees alike, and the WELL Standard offers a way to assess whether buildings serve these needs. A prominent aspect of the Standard is that it is geared towards both new and older structures, making it useful to developers and property owners who want to either implement a new project with a WELL certification or update an older building.
“It’s an appealing system to use with many existing buildings, to try to invigorate them to stay competitive against new flashier buildings,” explained Mara Baum, healthcare sustainable design leader, HOK. “There’s a lot of interest in the Bay Area. There are always employers out there who want to set themselves apart. WELL is one way that employers are viewing opportunity.”
Recently Delos partnered with HOK, a global design, architecture and engineering firm to promote the application of the WELL Building Standard around the world. The Mayo Clinic is another partner that has collaborated with Delos to create the WELL Living Lab, a facility designed as an experimental venue used in the development of healthier human work and living structures. The research conducted at the lab focuses on health outcomes for people in various built environments. Aiming to strengthen the company’s mission, Delos has also partnered with Structure Tone, a global construction management and general contracting services provider.
BCCI Construction Company, headquartered in San Francisco at 1160 Battery Street, is in the final stages of acquiring WELL certification, in addition to LEED, for its main office and awaits performance verification results.
“We have our own sustainability department, so it was important for us to walk the talk by getting certified,” said Kena David, sustainability manager, BCCI.
BCCI also worked on a SoMa office development at 85 Bluxome Street, which participated in the WELL pilot project; this was BCCI’s first introduction to the WELL Standard and spurred the company to promote it to other clients, as well. BCCI currently has projects in San Jose and Texas that are working towards this certification. Interest in WELL has been reported along the corridor from San Francisco to San Jose, from the tech sector and others including universities and municipalities.
The WELL Standard can be applied to a range of buildings including offices, multifamily residential, schools, retail and even entire communities. Just like LEED was measured by its governing body the US Green Building council, so too the WELL Standard receives its credentials from its own organization, the Green Business Certification Inc. But unlike initial LEED certification, the WELL Standard continues to be measured at regular increments, every three years a recertification process is required, to ensure the users and uses match up with initial goals.