Commercial real estate managers began the process of including environmental sustainability in building design over 20 years ago and the certification of buildings as such was soon to follow. Now, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is commonplace around the globe (72,000 projects in 150 countries as of August 2015).
The concept of sustainability is now being expanded to consider the effects of the building environment on its occupants – specifically the health, mental well-being and productivity of those tenants. Many buildings are offering healthy menu choices, wellness programs, fitness centers and outdoor seating areas – all intended on boosting the morale of its employees.
In line with the trend, the WELL Building standard, administered by The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), focuses exclusively on human health and wellness. The standard debuted in 2014 and covers over 100 strategies for improving occupant health in seven different categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Tenant spaces have to meet strict criteria for operation and performance which govern things such a paid time off to participation in volunteer activities, the food served at meetings as well as the wall-to-window ratio.
IWBI has compiled considerable evidence demonstrating the health benefits of these strategies which serve to reduce absenteeism, improve occupant comfort and even increase employee productivity.
Based on this, experts have dubbed the new standard, “LEED for People.”
The good news is, that if you are a LEED certified property, there is considerable overlap between the WELL and LEED requirements making it significantly easier to achieve certification. Like LEED, WELL has three award levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum. The standard can be applied to three types of projects: New and Existing Buildings (requires that a single tenant occupy at least 90% of the building); New and Existing Interiors which apply to any tenant space; and Core and Shell, which is designed to facilitate the first two types. WELL certification is straightforward but challenging and requires registration, documentation and performance verification. Once the steps are passed, certification is awarded for three years and must be recertified to maintain the award.