Canada and the WELL Building Standard

Canada and the WELL Building Standard

01 Sep 2015

By Whitney Austin Gray, Renée Rietveld and Martha MacInnis, Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine / Toronto Focus

Over the past decade, the building industry has increasingly positioned itself within the health and wellness conversation, with LEED as the catalyst, along with the Living Building Challenge, Active Design Guidelines and others. Yet, there was a need to move beyond indoor environmental quality issues to include whole-person health such as physical fitness, nourishment, mental health and wellness, and to support healthy behavior choices. If, after all, even with optimal air quality, you are still battling constant interruptions, glare from sunlight and temperature regulation issues, compounded by a lack of healthy food options and no opportunity for physical activity breaks – the human body will be affected in other ways.

A Path Toward Health and Wellness
In 2014, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) released the WELL Building Standard® [WELL] to address this exact need through a holistic approach. As the world’s first building standard to focus exclusively on enhancing people’s health and well-being through the built environment, WELL sets forth a path for designing buildings that support wellness while educating and engaging the design and health industries about the importance of building design on health. The culmination of seven years of rigorous research and development working with leading physicians, scientists and industry professionals, WELL is a performance-based certification system that marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research.

Projects earn WELL Certification by achieving features in seven categories of building performance – air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind. Each WELL Feature is designed to address issues that impact the health, comfort or knowledge of occupants through design, operations and behavior.

The WELL Building Standard can be applied across many real estate sectors, with WELL v1 optimized for commercial and institutional office buildings. WELL is further organized into Project Typologies of New and Existing Buildings, New and Existing Interiors, and Core and Shell, which account for specific considerations that are unique to a particular building type. Pilot Programs are also available for market sectors including retail, multi-family residential, education, restaurant, and commercial kitchen projects.

WELL + LEED
WELL and LEED complement each other in the optimization of healthy and high performance environments. IWBI welcomes projects to pursue LEED alongside WELL in order to promote both environmental sustainability and human health. LEED certification is important for achieving the best possible outcomes for environmental sustainability, and WELL maximizes the potential for supporting human health and wellness.

The WELL Building Standard in Canada
On June 9, at the Canada Green Building Council’s [CaGBC] annual national conference, Building Lasting Change, President and CEO Thomas Mueller announced that CaGBC would be working with Green Business Certification Inc. [GBCI] to promote and advance WELL in Canada, saying, “We have made a commitment to improving the environmental performance of buildings and homes, and now we also want to ensure that buildings provide a healthy and productive environment for occupants. The WELL standard is a timely addition to CaGBC’s programs, as health and wellness in the workplace is increasingly recognized as an important element in attracting and retaining employees.”

This new agreement to bolster adoption of WELL in the Canadian market comes at an exciting time, as approximately 15 million square feet of projects worldwide have already registered or certified through WELL. This builds on the more than 2,300 LEED projects already certified in Canada, creating tremendous opportunity to place people at the heart of design, construction, operations and development decisions.

To start this progression into Canada, the CaGBC is working with IWBI and the U.S. Green Building Council to provide the first series of WELL Workshops in Canada. In October, green building professionals in the GTA and Vancouver had their first opportunity to attend the one-day Understanding the Well Building Standard workshop, which is designed to help individuals understand the standard and how to successfully apply it to project work. Following these workshops there were special One-on-One with WELL receptions to expand on the ideas being presented in the course, and as an opportunity for the local industry to meet like-minded peers. Going into 2016 and building on the success of these two initial workshops, CaGBC will be looking to provide more WELL education in Canada. In addition, early research is being conducted to develop case studies of WELL projects in Canada to help demonstrate the effectiveness of WELL, both as an investment and a benefit for building occupants.

WELL Building Project Case Study – TD Centre, Toronto
TD Bank Group is the first organization in Canada to register to pursue WELL Certification as a New and Existing Interiors project. TD is piloting this approach in a renovation of corporate office space at its headquarters, TD Centre, in Toronto.

TD’s pursuit of WELL Certification builds upon its already well-established practices of incorporating health, wellness and sustainability into the design and operation of its office space. This latest project will incorporate additional aspects of workplace wellness such as adjustable height workstations and ergonomic tools to improve comfort and promote movement throughout the day. Open work areas surrounding the perimeter will allow an abundance of daylight to permeate the space, and task lighting at each desk offers the ability to modify light levels for optimum comfort.

For times when a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the office is needed, a private room – dubbed the “Tranquility Lounge” – offers up quiet space and lounge seating.

Some features, such as enhanced water filtration and improved air quality, will not be quite so obvious to occupants but will be identified through clever wellness signage and messaging throughout the space.

For the additional ‘behind the scenes’ adjustments TD has partnered with Cadillac Fairview, owner and operator of TD Centre. Improvements to several base building systems and operations will support carbon filtration for the HVAC and detailed cleaning policies outlining operations schedules and equipment. To further support the health and wellness of employees, a WELL guide will provide information on the added features in the space, health benefits, assistance programs and other resources available.

TD will use the learnings from past projects, this current pilot, and features of the WELL Building Standard to inform and guide health and wellness integration for future projects.

Become an Industry Leader Recognized for Canada’s Health and Wellness
WELL provides the opportunity to stand at the forefront of innovation in the sustainable and healthy building movement. Those who embrace WELL in Canada in its early stages will be industry leaders, demonstrating their commitment to placing health and wellness at the center of building design and performance. To learn more about the WELL Building Standard in Canada and upcoming education opportunities, please visit www.cagbc.org/WELLcertification. For more information on WELL, including the WELL Accredited Professional [WELL AP] credential, visit www.WELLcertified.com.

This piece was written in collaboration with Whitney Austin Gray, PhD, LEED AP, International WELL Building Institute; Renée Rietveld, Manager, Communications and Content Strategy, CaGBC; and Martha MacInnis, Design Director, Workplace Experience, TD Bank Group.

Source: Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine / Toronto Focus