"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Jane Jacobs

What is a Well Building?

Most people have worked in an office with poorly regulated temperature, where it seems that whatever the weather is outside, its the same inside. The office also probably had terrible fluorescent lighting, a severe lack of windows, and the ability to waft the terrible smelling tuna someone brought as their lunch throughout the building. These buildings were all designed to cram as many people into a building as possible without regard for how the office environment would turn out. For some design professionals, this does not make sense which is why they are turning towards WELL Building certification.

One of the many giant office buildings built without WELL criteria.

One of the many giant office buildings built without WELL criteria.

The name sounds like the program aims to make the buildings feel better, but what WELL Building  Certification does is make the building better for the inhabitants. "WELL fosters a holistic formula for better health and wellness outcomes, leading to improvements in things like employee productivity, engagement and retention." It is a performance-based system similar to LEED or Passive House, that measures, certifies and monitors features of the built environment. Unlike the other two programs, WELL is focused on the impact to human health and well-being through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mine.

Seven categories for WELL (image courtesy of mkkeng.com)

Seven categories for WELL (image courtesy of mkkeng.com)

The International WELL Building Institute was established in 2013 after founder Paul Scialla committed to the Clinton Global Initiative. The standards were released in October 2014 after six years of research and development. They began with seven standards, but version 2, to be released in 2018 will increase this number to nine. A building could achieve certification through the interior spaces, the core and shell, or the entire building. These standards are certified by the the Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI), which administers the LEED certification program.

The first project to be awarded the WELL Certification is located in Toronto. The TD Bank Group's office was awarded the Well Certification at the Gold level in 2016. Today there are over 530 certified WELL projects throughout the world with a combined total of 100 million square feet. The only project to achieve a full building certification is in Tokyo, Japan. The Obayashi Corporation’s Technical Research Institute (TRI) is an existing building that was renovated to achieve WELL Gold in 2017.

Obayashi Corporation’s Technical Research Institute (image courtesy of inhabitat.com)

Obayashi Corporation’s Technical Research Institute (image courtesy of inhabitat.com)

The people spending 90 percent of their days within these office buildings do not care about whether the building achieved certification. They will however benefit if a building does obtain the necessary rating to be given a WELL platinum, silver, or gold standard. It will mean they have better lighting, air circulation, and access to fitness among other quality of life concerns. Employers will have a better time retaining employees and employees will enjoy being at work more. It could pay to make a building WELL.