December 26

Mastering WELL Certification: A Comprehensive Guide


WELL certification is a global rating system that recognizes buildings designed and constructed to support the health and well-being of their occupants. Developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), WELL certification evaluates the performance of buildings toward sustainability, health, and well-being.

By earning WELL certification, building owners and developers can demonstrate their commitment to creating healthy, high-performing buildings that support the well-being of their occupants. WELL certificate is particularly relevant in today’s world, as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of indoor environments and their impact on health.

The WELL certification is becoming increasingly popular among building owners and developers looking to differentiate their buildings and meet the growing demand for healthy, high-performing buildings. By earning WELL certification, building owners and developers can demonstrate their commitment to creating buildings that support the well-being of their occupants and that are designed and constructed with health and sustainability in mind.

But professionals have many questions when they want to use this certification.

Let´s discover the central questions in the complete guide! Also, if you want to watch it in a 1-hour comprehensive class, here it is.

How WELL Certification Works?

WELL Certification is suited for firms adopting WELL in a single facility or asset. It offers 108 features and ten concepts organizations may use to progress their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting initiatives.

Projects must pursue a specific subset of elements or tactics from the ten WELL ideas, which include air, water, thermal comfort, light, movement, nutrition, sound, mind, community, and materials. Each concept includes design, culture, operational policies, and maintenance protocols. These specific changes, when implemented, can help any building or organization better serve the health of its customers, employees, and visitors.

The interested parties must present paperwork examined and tested by a third party to prove compliance with program requirements. With each feature achieved, projects earn points toward their WELL Certification goal. Upon completion, projects are awarded a plaque designating one of four certification levels based on the overall number of points obtained.

  • WELL Certified Bronze: 40 points
  • WELL Certified Silver: 50 points
  • WELL Certified Gold: 60 points
  • WELL Certified Platinum: 80 points

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What are the benefits of the WELL certification?

  • Improved health and well-being of building occupants: WELL-certified buildings are designed and operated to promote healthful behaviors and environments, leading to improved health and well-being for building occupants.
  • Increased productivity: Research has shown that people who work in healthy buildings tend to be more productive and have fewer absences due to illness or other factors. Achieving WELL Certification can help to create a work environment that supports productivity and employee well-being.
  • Increase brand equity by being a market leader, enhancing reputation and marketability: Achieving WELL certification can help to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and health, which can be attractive to potential tenants, buyers, or investors.
  • Validate commitments to health and well-being:  through rigorous third-party review and on-site testing, it’s possible to achieve a high level of positive transparency to outcome the status and results of a company in a market where sustainability has escalated.
  • Cost savings: Implementing health-promoting design and operational practices can help to reduce energy and water consumption, leading to cost savings on utility bills.
  • Create a baseline for ESG reporting and benchmarking: pursuing new partnerships and clients based on this growing and needed tendency.
  • Improved occupant satisfaction: Building occupants who work in WELL-certified buildings tend to report higher satisfaction levels with their work environment, which can contribute to improved retention and recruitment of employees.

It is important to note that achieving WELL certification is a voluntary process. The specific benefits that a building may experience will depend on various factors, including the design and operational practices implemented, the type of building, and the needs and preferences of the building occupants.

The 5 top criteria for WELL

To become certified WELL, a building must meet a variety of criteria, which may vary depending on the specific regulations and standards that apply in the location where it is located. However, some standard measures that may be required include the following:

  1. The edification must be appropriately constructed and maintained, using materials and techniques that meet specific standards. This may include requirements for the type and quality of materials used, the casing and sealing, and the installations.
  1. The WELL-certified must be located in an area suitable for it, considering factors such as the area’s geology, the proximity to sources of contamination, and the potential for flooding or other natural disasters.
  1. It must be tested regularly to ensure that the water produced is safe for consumption and meets specific quality standards. This may include tests for contaminants such as bacteria, pesticides, and chemicals.
  1. It must be appropriately maintained to ensure that it continues to meet the relevant standards and regulations. This may include requirements for regular inspections and testing of the maintenance of the building and its associated equipment.
  1. The WELL owner must follow specific reporting and record-keeping requirements, such as keeping records of the construction and maintenance and submitting reports or data to the appropriate agency as required.

If all these criteria are undertaken, it can be certified by the appropriate agency, and a certificate of WELL Completion or WELL Construction report will be issued. 

It is important to note that WELL certification is not a one-time process. Certified WELL must be regularly inspected and tested to meet relevant standards and regulations. If a WELL-certified fails to meet these standards, it may lose its certification, and the owner may be required to take steps to bring it back into compliance.

Types of construction that can achieve WELL certification

Every type of facility in any area is accessible and eligible for WELL Certification. Popular industries include offices, residential, hospitality, education, industrial, and retail. Possible obstacles and difficulties are generally more associated with the effort required throughout the process than with the buildings themselves.

WELL is also eligible for new and existing construction. We’ll show you some interesting certificated projects ahead in this article.

Does WELL have a third-party validation?

A third party must carefully examine all WELL Certified. This means that an organization cannot simply state that they did something; they must provide evidence that assures people that evidence-based strategies are not only in place but are being monitored on an ongoing basis.

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How much does it cost to certify WELL?

To begin, each project must pay a flat enrollment fee, a certification fee based on the square footage of the space, and a performance testing fee.

Also, there are two types of appliances: WELL Certification should be applied for spaces primarily occupied by the owner. WELL Core Certification should be applied for buildings mostly leased or sold by the owner.

Both enrollment fees are about $2,500, plus a program fee of  $0.16/sq ft (WELL Certification) and $0.08/sq ft (WELL Core), with a minimum of $6,500 and capped at $100,500. Industrial location fees are reduced in both cases.

Some WELL-certified successful cases

These are just a few notable WELL-certified projects, and many other buildings worldwide have achieved WELL certification at various levels.

Three Garden Road, Hong Kong (Platinum Certified, 2020):

Owned by Champion REIT, it was the first existing building in Hong Kong to receive a WELL Platinum certification. Situated in Hong Kong’s bustling financial sector, it is one of the biggest WELL-certified developments, with more than 1,600,000 square feet. Numerous wellness-oriented initiatives are included in the project, such as a fitness center, classical music performances, wholesome dining and snacking options, and a garden.

IWBI NYC Headquarters, USA (Platinum Certified, 2019):

The WELL Standard’s creator, the International WELL Building Institute, has its headquarters in New York. After relocating to an aging structure near Madison Square Park, its worldwide office achieved a WELL Platinum certification. The structure, which was initially constructed in 1913, presented particular difficulties for the design team, COOKFOX, including issues with noise and thermal comfort. IWBI demonstrated that the WELL Standard is open to anyone by achieving WELL Platinum with a vintage retrofit.

EDGE Technologies Headquarters, Netherlands (Platinum Certified):

EDGE Technologies was the first company to be awarded a Platinum rating under WELL v2 for their Amsterdam headquarters.  In addition to providing opportunities for employees to engage in physical activity, EDGE Technologies also employed low-VOC building materials and provided various meeting spaces. Along with these methods, they added a meditation area and offered optional biweekly massages or naps.

ASID Headquarters, USA (Platinum Certified, 2017):

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) headquarters office in Washington D.C., USA, was the first project to be certified Platinum by both LEED and WELL v1. ASID matched energy efficiency and waste reduction with interior environmental conditions and wellness concerns, demonstrating an unparalleled commitment to the environment and the health and safety of building inhabitants. A Cornell University research indicated that after the certification, overall job satisfaction increased, as did contentment with the interior environment, perceived organizational productivity, and perceived organizational support.

How hard is it to achieve WELL certification?

The difficulty of achieving WELL certification can vary depending on several factors, including the specific regulations and standards that apply to the location of the building, its condition and age, and the resources and commitment to meeting the WELL standards.

To prepare for certification, you will need to evaluate and identify any areas that require upgrading following the certification guidelines. Next, you must implement a strategy to solve these issues, including making physical improvements to the structure or introducing new operational policies and procedures. You will also need to document your efforts and present evidence of WELL compliance.

Overall, obtaining certification requires considerable time, resources, and effort. However, the advantages of certification, such as excellent occupant health and well-being, increased tenant satisfaction, and a better reputation, may make it a worthwhile investment. 

How long does it take to certify WELL?

The length of time it takes to certify a building for WELL Building Standard (WELL) certification depends on several factors, including the size and complexity of the building, the readiness of the building and its systems to meet the WELL standards, and the availability of resources and personnel to complete the certification process. In general, it can take anywhere from several months to over a year to complete the WELL certification process for a building.

The first step in the WELL certification process is to prepare and submit a project application, which includes information about the building, its systems, and the intended use of the space. After the application is reviewed and accepted, the building will be evaluated against the WELL standards using a combination of on-site assessments, document reviews, and performance testing.

The WELL certification process includes several stages, including:

  1. Pre-assessment: During this stage, the building’s systems and features are evaluated to determine their readiness for WELL certification.
  1. On-site assessment: An on-site assessment is conducted to verify that the building meets the WELL standards. This may include a review of documentation, observations of building systems and features, and performance testing.
  1. Review and verification: After the on-site assessment, the assessment report is reviewed and verified by a WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP).
  1. Certification: Once the building has been successfully evaluated and verified, it will be certified as meeting the WELL standards.

Suppose you are interested in certifying but are afraid of not handling the process. In that case, companies like UGREEN can help guide you through all certification phases with responsibility and organization.

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How long is the WELL certification valid?

WELL Building Standard (WELL) certification is valid for three years from the certification date. After three years, buildings must undergo a recertification process to maintain their WELL certification status.

The recertification process follows a similar process to the initial certification process, with an on-site assessment and review of the building’s systems and features to ensure they continue meeting the WELL standards. Recertification is also an opportunity for buildings to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to improving the health and well-being of their occupants and the community.

It’s important to note that maintaining WELL certification requires ongoing attention to the building’s systems and features. Building owners and operators must continue to monitor and maintain the building’s systems and features to ensure that they meet the WELL standards and report any changes or updates to the WELL certification team.

How can UGREEN help me to start my WELL certification?

To start your WELL certification with UGREEN, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Contact UGREEN: The first step is to get in touch with UGREEN to discuss your interest in the WELL certification. You can do this by scheduling an appointment here.
  2. Schedule an assessment: Once you have contacted UGREEN, they will assess your building to determine its current compliance with the WELL standards. This assessment will involve reviewing your building’s design and operational features and an on-site visit to collect data and assess the building’s performance.
  3. Develop a plan: Based on the assessment results, UGREEN will work with you to develop a plan to improve your building’s compliance with the standards. This plan will outline the specific actions that need to be taken to meet the requirements, including any physical changes to the building or operational policies and procedures that need to be implemented.
  4. Implement the plan: With the help of UGREEN, you will need to implement the plan to improve your building’s compliance with the standards. This will involve making necessary physical changes to the building and implementing new policies and procedures as outlined in the plan.
  5. Verification and certification: Once you have implemented the necessary improvements, UGREEN will conduct a verification assessment to confirm that your building meets the standards. If the facility meets the standards, ugreen.io will submit the documentation to the program for review and certification.

Working with UGREEN allows you to receive expert guidance and support throughout the WELL certification process.

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