WELL Core & Shell Certification: Prioritizing human health at the heart of your building

WELL Core & Shell Certification: Prioritizing human health at the heart of your building

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The buildings where we live, work, learn and relax have a profound effect on our health: how we feel, what we eat and how we sleep at night. By examining our surroundings and making key changes, we have the power to cultivate spaces that promote wellness, and support efforts to live healthier, happier, more active lives. The WELL Building StandardTM (WELLTM) provides a roadmap and a comprehensive set of strategies for advancing human health through the buildings where we spend about 90 percent of our time, while also setting forth a common foundation for measuring wellness as a whole. Led by the International WELL Building InstituteTM (IWBITM), WELL integrates scientific research with environmental health, behavioral factors, health outcomes and demographic risk factors with leading practices in building design and management. The result is the premier building standard for advancing human health and wellness – and a blueprint for creating better buildings that can enhance productivity, health and happiness for people everywhere.


Building owners and investors can play a pivotal role in advancing human health by designing and operating buildings with health in mind. Ensuring that key elements such as the building structure, window locations and glazing, building proportions, the heating, cooling and ventilation system, and water quality are designed for health can have a significant impact on the tenants, visitors and staff. Earning WELL Core & Shell Certification verifies the performance of your building, and communicates to tenants that you are committed to partnering with them in creating a healthy environment for their employees. Based on the number of health-promoting strategies you achieve, WELL recognizes leadership at Silver, Gold and Platinum levels, providing you flexibility on how to meet your goals.

WELL Core and Shell Certification provides a strong basis of design and performance that makes it easier for tenants to further pursue WELL Certification for their fitouts. By building upon the attributes of a WELL CertifiedTM base building, tenants can then add wellness-focused elements like nourishment programs, fitness policies and healthy materials, among many other strategies. In addition, tenants of a WELL Core and Shell Certified space are charged a lower rate per square foot than other projects, resulting in a financial incentive that helps tenants pursue their own certification achievements.






CBRE'S 2017 Occupier Survey in EMEA reflected an increasing tenant expectation for WELL Core & Shell Certified buildings.1

Surveys show that tenant demand for buildings that advance health is rising dramatically because of the desire to maximize the employee experience in the workplace: attracting and retaining the best talent while increasing engagement and productivity is a key focus.1 Corporate tenants spend 90 percent of their annual budgets on their employees, and many now include health and well-being as a priority element within their workplace strategy. Real estate plays a key role in supporting these goals because buildings can have a tremendous impact on both human health and a company’s bottom line. Even modest assumptions on reduced turnover or increased productivity can provide a compelling return on investment for tenants.2





Early adopters reported increased leasing rates after healthy building investments.6

Wellness is a $3 trillion industry globally and consumers of all ages are demanding healthier options in their homes, offices, schools and communities.3,4 Incorporating health-focused building design and operations through WELL Certification allows you to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for wellness amenities. Early projects that have achieved WELL Certification report significant rent premiums and increase in leasing velocity.5 WELL Certification can be a valuable marketing opportunity to differentiate your building, demonstrate leadership and reinforce brand alignment with health and well-being.2





Early adopters reported gains in building value after healthy building investments.6

Certifying the performance of your buildings helps to attract high-quality tenants and can add value to the building over time. Of those owners who have embraced health-focused building strategies, 62 percent saw a positive impact on their building’s value.6 The quality assurance and transparency of WELL Certification can improve tenant relationships and can lower risk of turnover, a significant opportunity for cost savings from vacancy reduction.





A study comparing 45 health-promoting companies illustrates higher performance above S&P 500 index appreciation at 159% oer a 6-year simulation period.9

Real estate companies and funds often utilize the GRESB Assessment to evaluate their portfolio’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. Institutional investors have taken notice that economic performance of those companies with higher ESG scores often outperform their peers with lower ESG scores.7 Recently, GRESB added a Health and Well-being Module that allows investors to track material elements, such as WELL Certification, that can correlate with corporate financial value.8,9 Performing to WELL’s global benchmark for health promotion can help to future-proof your building by providing critical health amenities, possibly reducing risk and liabilities.



Hard cost premiums to achieve WELL Certification can be minimal for projects that who intend to build and renovate high performance buildings or who are utilizing green building practices, such as LEED, BREEAM, Green Star, Living Building Challenge and other rating systems. Mechanical systems, electric lighting and daylight requirements, and healthy material selection are among the many strategies that are useful for meeting both environmental and health goals and for which a project can receive dual credit. Among early adopters of WELL, cost premiums are often around 1 percent and regularly below 5 percent for buildings of this category.10



WELL Certification creates meaningful returns on investment, and is meant to be accessible for projects everywhere. For a 250,000 square foot project, WELL fees can be less than one percent of total development costs, or about $0.23 per square foot. ROI opportunities may be realized through revenue gains from increases in rental premiums, leasing velocity and building value, as well as savings from increased tenant retention.



The WELL Building Standard focusing on seven concepts, or core focus areas of well-being. Each concept is broken down into features intended to optimize the health and well-being of the people inside your building through dedicated strategies and tactics, while minimizing harmful side effects associated with spending time indoors. Features are categorized as either preconditions—which are necessary to achieve all levels of WELL Certification—or optimizations, which are not required to meet Silver level certification, but create flexible pathways toward Gold and Platinum certification levels. The list that follows includes features and strategies WELL Core and Shell projects often pursue to meet their certification goals.



Indoor environments are one of the only places where we have control of air quality. However, indoor air can be even more polluted than outdoor air if toxic materials or cleaning agents, which emit volatile organic compounds or semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs and SVOCs), are present.Informed selection of building materials, thoughtful building maintenance, and an effective ventilation system can help mitigate poor indoor air quality.

  • Provide robust and responsive ventilation and filtration systems

  • Utilize safer cleaning products and pesticides

  • Prohibit smoking onsite

  • Prevent outdoor contaminants from traveling indoors at entrances

  • Consider additional air sanitization and purification methods



Clean water is critical for maintaining health and preventing disease, but quality of water is affected by municipal treatment and can also be contaminated by biological, chemical and radioactive pollutants. Base building water monitoring and quality control is the most effective way to ensure high quality water is delivered to tenants.

  • Provide access to high quality water

  • Mitigate any water quality concerns

  • Consider quarterly testing and advanced strategies such as carbon filters, reverse osmosis, and UV sanitization



Food plays a vital role in chronic disease prevention and weight management, helping to control against the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, all of which are linked to poor diet. Building location and operation, including availability of healthy foods and beverages, appealing presentation of healthier food options, and marketing of healthy foods can profoundly influence the choices that people make when it comes to selecting snacks and meals.

  • Provide hygienic hand washing stations and suitable supplies

  • Create a supportive environment for healthy food consumption

  • Consider availability of healthy food options in or near the building



Daylight is necessary for human growth and development, and also controls our circadian rhythm. Exposure to artificial light during the evening and nighttime can negatively affect a range of physiological functions, including cognition and sleep quality. Building design and fit out can positively influence both the quantity and quality of light provided to tenants.

  • Provide access to daylight and close proximity to windows

  • Prevent unwanted glare through window shading and shielding of lights

  • Consider ambient lighting systems that provide circadian benefits



Frequent movement and regular exercise are key to achieving and maintaining optimal fitness, and promoting overall health and well-being. However, modern transportation, labor-saving conveniences and office-based jobs have created an environment in which millions of people not only fail to get the minimum amount of recommended daily physical activity, but also spend too much time being sedentary Thoughtful building location and design allow employees and other building visitors and staff to integrate short bouts of physical activity into their day.

  • Use engaging design and placement for staircases

  • Consider onsite amenities such as outdoor benches, fountains, bike storage, showers and/or gym facilities



Feeling comfortable and relaxed can improve productivity and focus. However many employees report that they are uncomfortable and distracted during the day as a result of a lack of control over their indoor environmental conditions. While noise is ubiquitous, we can adopt technologies, practices and policies that create quieter environments and minimize our exposure to harmful and unnecessary noise. Your building’s interior and exterior design, as well as informed decisions about materials and base building systems, influence comfort.

  • Create high quality acoustic environments and minimize intrusion of internally generated noises

  • Provide optimal thermal comfort

  • Utilize accessible design principles

  • Consider enhanced acoustic treatments and thermal comfort methods



Mental health plays a vital role in an individual’s overall health and well-being: Depression alone is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and mental, neurological and substance use disorders account for 14 percent of the global burden of disease. Thoughtful and flexible base building design can have an impact on tenant mental health and well-being, and can also help support the implementation of supportive company policies.

  • Engage tenants in the process of incorporating healthy elements

  • Provide health education and awareness for occupants

  • Consider using biophilic design principles and celebrating local art and culture




  • Register your project to get started, and meet your coaching contact to talk process and review your certification goals.

  • Submit documentation to demonstrate that you’ve met the mandatory elements of the WELL Building Standard (preconditions), as well as optional strategies (optimization features) that meet your goals.

  • Complete performance verification with your WELL Assessor, who will visit your project and complete visual inspections as well as performance tests.

  • Certify: Depending on the features you choose to pursue, you can earn certification at one of three levels: Silver, Gold or Platinum.

  • Recertify: Demonstrate your commitment to top performance by renewing your certification every three years, including additional onsite testing and documentation review.


Welcome to the WELL movement. Visit wellcertified.com to register your project or contact our team at technical@wellcertified.com for more information.


1. EMEA Occupier Survey Report 2017: Making Space Work Smarter. CBRE Research; 2017.

2. Grayson B. Making the Case for Health: Insights from the First WELL Projects. Urban Land Magazine. https://urbanland.uli.org/sustainability/making-case-healthier-buildings.... Published September 14, 2017. Accessed October 9, 2017.

3. The Future of Wellness at Work, 2016 Research Report. Global Wellbeing Institute; 2016.

4. The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings: The Market Drivers and Impact of Building Design on Occupant Health, Well-­‐Being and Productivity SmartMarket Report; McGraw Hill Construction. 2014.

5. Kirk P. Is WELL Certification Worth It for Developers? National Real Estate Investor. http://www.nreionline.com/office/well-certification-worth-it-developers. Published July 10, 2017. Accessed October 9, 2017.

6. The Drive Toward Healthier Buildings 2016: Tactical Intelligence to Transform Building Design and Construction SmartMarket Report. Dodge Data & Analytics. 2016.

7. Fuerst F. The Financial Rewards of Sustainability: A Global Performance Study of Real Estate Investment Trusts. SSRN Electron J. 2015. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2619434.

8. GRESB. GRESB and WELL: Complementary Tools to Promote Transparency and Leadership on Health and Well-being. GRESB. https://gresb.com/gresb-and-well-complementary-tools-to-promote-transpar.... Published June 19, 2016. Accessed October 9, 2017.

9. Grossmeier J, Fabius R, Flynn JP, et al. Linking Workplace Health Promotion Best Practices and Organizational Financial Performance. J Occup Environ Med. 2016; 58(1):16-23. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000631.

10. Wilson J. Case Study: Structure Tone Headquarters, New York, NY. BuildingGreen. https://www.buildinggreen.com/news-analysis/case-study-structure-tone-he.... Published June 7, 2017. Accessed October 9, 2017.