The WELL Building Standard – Codifying Health & Wellbeing in the Built Environment

Director Peter Courtney on The WELL Building Standard, what it is, what it considers and how it can be applied.

There is no doubt that the surge in interest in health and wellbeing is having a long-term impact on the built environment, not least as it is driven from outside of the traditional industry boundaries by the desire to reduce the negative impacts of ‘modern life’ and enhance the benefits that buildings can bring to our lives.

Most of us spend around 90% of our time in buildings, so getting the design and operation of our built environment right, in terms of how our environments can support our health and wellbeing, is crucial.

WELL is the first framework of its kind to codify health & wellbeing within the built environment. The certification process requires a similar, evidence-collation approach to other schemes such as BREEAM and LEED but allows projects to focus on human-centric design in a way that other certifications do not. It is much more holistic and integral, non-negotiable and integrated into the core of our environment. It is also less of a ‘tick box’ exercise where credits can be traded. If BREEAM excellent or outstanding is required on a project then this goes a long way to achieving the pre-completion credits within early stages of WELL certification.

What is the WELL Building Standard?

The WELL Building Standard is a method of assessing and improving our built environment. It is described as combining best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research, harnessing buildings as vehicles to support human health and wellbeing.

WELL is an independently verified, performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features of buildings that impact human health and well-being. WELL is also the first building standard to focus exclusively on the human health and wellness in our buildings and communities.

WELL Certified™ spaces can help create buildings that improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, productivity and performance of its occupants.

One of the key differentiators of WELL is that is also requires an on-site Performance Verification stage, which involves a series of empirical tests and visual checks to confirm that the end result of the scheme meets the WELL criteria.

Whilst the first version V1 has been in place for three or four years, the second version V2 is now in operation and will focus on the ten areas of wellbeing.

What does it consider?

The Well Building Standard V2 covers ten core concepts of health and wellbeing, each composed of over 100 features that can be applied to a project.

10 principles of the WELL Building standard v2

Copyright 2018 by Internal WELL Building Institute. PBC. All Rights Reserved.

How can it be applied?

WELL can be applied to new and existing buildings and is currently mainly focused on the commercial and workplace sectors, but it’s clear to see how its principles can be applied to any sector.

V2 will be more applicable to all types of buildings and cheaper, especially for public sector projects. It is a points based system where credits are awarded to each section, with a set of preconditions and mandatory requirements, followed by a selection of criteria depending on target. There are three levels of accreditation; silver, gold and platinum. Tests have to be undertaken every three years to maintain accreditation.

Through exploring how design, operations and behaviours within the places where we live, work, learn and play can be optimised to advance human health and wellbeing, The WELL Building Standard could revolutionise the way people think about buildings.

While we would hope that all of our designs were ‘human centred’, this new body of research and renewed interest in this field can assist us in our designs.

On a recent project for Aviva, our team had the opportunity to apply some of the principles above to create a concept for a ‘digital garage’ workspace for circa 75 people, that would bring together employees from various sites in a ‘people-centric’ environment that would drive collaboration, innovation and inspire a new culture within the organisation.

Likewise, our project to design the new Civic Centre for Thurrock Council on Grays High Street has incorporated many aspects of the WELL Standard into its defined project objectives and we look forward to sharing details as the scheme progresses.