Building WELL: An Introduction to and Update on the WELL Building Standard

Building WELL: An Introduction to and Update on the WELL Building Standard

Monday, February 1, 2016
/ By:
Paul Scialla

In the News

Contributed piece by Paul Scialla for Healthy Indoors Magazine

Now more than ever, health and well­ ness is a top priority in nearly every facet of our lives, from nutrition to sleep and exercise. Yet a growing body of research demonstrates that health and wellness is not just about eating well and staying active; in fact, the environments where we live and work have a direct impact on our well-being, from our sleep/ wake cycles and mood to productivity and performance. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly important to place people at the heart of design and construction operations and development decisions.

In October 2014, the International WELL Build­ ing Institute™ (IWBI) launched version 1.0 of the WELL Building Standard ™ (WELL), the first building standard to focus exclusively on the health and well-being of the people in buildings. Designed to work harmoniously with other building certifications such as LEED to best address both human health and environmental sustainability, WELL marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research to harness the built environment as a vehicle to support human health. WELL demonstrates that green building and health and wellness go hand-in-hand, and sets performance requirements in seven categories relevant to occupant health and wellness: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Since WELL's launch, health and well-being increasingly have become a part of the sustainability conversation, prioritized rather than viewed as a 'nice to have.' With more than 100 projects encompassing more than 20 million square feet registered or certified under the WELL Building Standard in 12 countries across five continents to date, the healthy building movement has already made incredible headway, with several exciting expansions already in the works for 2016 and beyond.

The features of WELL, including requirements such as water and air filtration systems to limit exposure to pathogens and allergens, can be applied across many real estate sectors to commercial, residential, and institutional buildings.

Offices have been particularly quick to pursue the standard thus far, and these early adopters of WELL have already seen overwhelmingly positive results. CBRE Group lnc.'s Global Corporate Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, which incorporated innovative WELL features such as circadian lighting systems to support employees' sleep/wake cycles and promote alertness, became the first commercial office building in the world to achieve WELL Certification through the pilot program. The company conducted an employee survey one year post­ occupancy, and the results were staggering: 92 percent of respondents reported that the new space created a positive effect on their health and well-being: 94 percent said the new space has had a positive impact on their business performance; and 83 percent said that they felt more productive . Other WELL certified or registered projects include TD Bank's Corporate Office in Toronto and 425 Park Avenue in New York City, with additional information about certified and registered projects available at

New research continually underscores this demonstrated importance of the built environment.

A timely research study recently published by Harvard, SUNY and Syracuse University found the overall cognitive performance scores of those who worked in low CO2 environments to be higher than those of participants who worked in average CO2 environments, with cognitive functions such as information usage, strategy, and crisis response scores particularly jarringly affected. Such studies demonstrate that healthy building not only has the potential to curb rising healthcare costs, but can also provide invaluable return on investment by helping companies retain top talent, increase employee productivity and satisfaction, strengthen corporate responsibility efforts and reduce absenteeism. As we usher in 2016, we expect to continue to see the expansion of WELL among offices, multifamily residential spaces, and beyond, with a host of other projects already in the pipeline.

To that end, IWBI recently launched pilot programs in five new market sectors, signifying the advancement of healthy building practices in several new categories and markets as these programs continue to grow in 2016.The new pilot programs comprise multifamily residential, retail, education, restaurant and commercial kitchen projects, with projects representing these building sectors invited to register and join at As WELL continues to expand, the role of those who achieve the re­cently launched WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) credential, signifying knowledge in human health and wellness in the built environ­ment and specialization in the WELL Building Standard, will also become increasingly benefi­cial, and will provide the opportunity for building industry professionals to further differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

In addition to the growth of new pilot programs and the WELL AP credential, 2016 will also continue to see advancements in research surrounding the relationship between health and wellness and the built environment. Delos™, the wellness real estate and technology firm I founded, and the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, recently collaborated to launch the Well Living Lab, which will begin its first studies this year. The Well Living Lab is a multidisciplinary re­ search lab that brings together the health care expertise and world-class research of Mayo Clinic and the knowledge of health and wellness in the built environment provided by Delos, which pioneered the WELL Building Standard and helped to develop its framework before IWBI was established to administer the stan­dard globally. The Lab will leverage and expand upon the principles of WELL to help us to learn even more about how we can utilize the built environment to support health and wellness.

With healthy building increasingly identified as a top trend in both the building and design and wellness industries - and new research to further our understanding of the best ways to support and augment human health through the built environment becoming a major priority - we expect an even greater expansion of WELL in 2016 as we broaden the reach of healthy indoor environments and their positive effects across all areas of our lives.

Source: Healthy Indoors Magazine