Goodes Hall Rotunda

How WELL Fits in… or Doesn’t With Other Building Standards

Over the last several years the building industry has seen several building standards evolve around sustainability goals. This is a wonderful thing, helping commercial buildings move towards a more sustainable future.

WELL is often included alongside LEED® and other construction-oriented sustainability goals in RFPs received by designers, architects and builders. While consideration for all goals are best included early as WELL strategies may affect how space is designed, WELL has a lot to do with how a business is operated in the space after its construction. Therefore, the WELL component cannot be ensured by the design/build team. WELL is not a front-loaded strategy, meaning the bulk of the work is not done in the design/build stage but continues indefinitely as part of operations. Sustainability best practices mean clients requesting WELL need to consider long-term plans and commitments.

Full Involvement Required

While the implementation of LEED requirements can be executed without the business operator’s input, WELL requirements need full participation and ongoing dedication. In fact, it’s important to note that to ensure ongoing care and commitment WELL projects must be recertified every three years to continue to be called WELL. Here’s an example of construction versus operations: plans include building a connection to public transit, which happens during the construction phase. Under WELL, points would continue to be earned by subsidizing the ride cost for employees to encourage wider use long after it’s built. Nicer stairwells may be built, intended for regular use over elevators to reduce power consumption, but under WELL music might be added, which needs to be maintained over time. There are WELL strategies that have nothing whatsoever to do with the physical environment, like not requiring staff who travel to take red-eye flights.

Focus and Motivation

Occupant wellbeing is the driving force behind WELL, whereas it is only one area of LEED’s focus. There is overlap: when it comes to indoor strategies, we call WELL the indoor environment part of LEED on steroids. However, common solutions resolve from different motivations. For example, walkability, open green space and bike path connection as solutions may stem from a LEED strategy to reduce or offset carbon emissions, while the WELL motivation is all about occupant fitness and mental health. The most important aspect of WELL to consider is what is the business operating in the space going to do to encourage continued use of these solutions? They cannot be accomplished for the operator, although sustainability experts like WELL accredited professionals can help plan for and keep it all on track.

Learn about healthy workplace considerations related to design and construction.

Finding the Right Mix

LEED and other sustainable building programs work beautifully with WELL and often have many cross-walks, allowing an expert in all of them to make connections that may simplify certification processes. At Green Reason, we strongly believe in developing sustainability goals first. From there, develop strategies that include ability and willingness for ongoing commitment. With all that, choose the building standards that best aid in the execution of these strategies. If certification is not the end goal, using the most relevant parts of these standards can allow for greater flexibility and aid in achieving sustainability goals in creative ways.

Sustainability best practices include considering ongoing opportunities for positive impact, long after the construction crew has packed up. WELL is one way to do that. Watch for additional articles in our Sustainability Best Practices series.

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