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WELL , BREEAM, LEED and SKA are the key sustainability assessment certifications. Each is the subject of its own fact sheet.

What is the WELL Building Standard?

The WELL Building Standard is a certification scheme aimed at improving buildings and the indoor environment for occupants by placing health and ‘wellness’ at the centre of design, construction and management. The WELL standard is based upon robust scientific and medical research. It explores the connection between the buildings that we work in and the health and wellness that impact us as occupants.

It is administered by the IWBI (International WELL Building Institute) in close collaboration with Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

A qualified ‘WELL Accredited Professional (AP)’ is required for a project to create the project scorecard, collate evidence and liaise with the IWBI.

The link between wellbeing and carbon

At first sight, wellbeing and its impact on carbon emissions are very separate issues. However, the reality is that a building which supports the physical and mental wellbeing of its occupiers is likely to be well used and have a longer life. Buildings that are hostile to their users’ wellbeing are fundamentally unsustainable and may end up being demolished and rebuilt. As this has an extremely negative eventuality for carbon emissions, environmental certification schemes such as WELL ensure a strong focus on wellbeing within their agenda.

As the drive for low carbon projects continues, more pressure is placed on the design team to reduce carbon emissions. However, it is important that this focus does not result in the design being pushed too far or in such a way that it detracts from the fundamental need to ensure the space supports the wellbeing of its occupants.

WELL Building Standard criteria

The WELL Building Standard has a range of criteria which needs to be achieved sectioned into ‘features’ across the following ‘concepts’:

WELL assessment and certification

Similar to LEED, preconditions represent the core features of the WELL Building Standard. All mandatory preconditions must be met by the proposed building in order to be awarded a Bronze WELL certified rating.

Optimisations provide project teams with optional pathways to meet WELL certification requirements. These optimisation features (like LEED credits) include possible technologies, design strategies, protocols and policies that can be implemented. Each optimisation feature is assigned a number of points according to its potential impact in addressing a specific health and wellness concern or opportunity. This is over and above the mandatory pre-condition features. They are required for a project to achieve a Silver, Gold or Platinum certificate.

WELL requires ‘performance testing’ and onsite spot checks of air quality, thermal comfort levels, and other parameters in the space are checked by a third-party WELL Accredited Testing Agent. This testing takes place post-completion which ensures that the space performs as intended, according to WELL requirements. WELL certified buildings require recertification every three years.

Additional WELL ratings

Following the pandemic, the International WELL Building Institute introduced the WELL Health-Safety Rating in June 2020.

This is an evidence-based, third-party verified rating system that assists building owners, facility managers and operators in the implementation of best practices for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and for navigating this crisis and beyond.