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December 26

Mastering WELL Certification: A Comprehensive Guide

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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 video 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 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.

What are the credit categories of WELL certification?

The certification is organized into ten categories, called “Concepts,” which each address different aspects of well-being in the built environment.

These WELL Certification Concepts are:

  1. Air: Focuses on maintaining high indoor air quality by reducing indoor air pollutants, maintaining proper ventilation, and mitigating issues like mold.
  2. Water: Ensures the availability of clean, safe drinking water and promotes hydration by setting water quality standards and encouraging filtration systems.
  3. Nourishment: Encourages healthy eating habits and promotes access to wholesome food through mindful food offerings, labeling, and preparation guidelines.
  4. Light: Emphasizes access to natural daylight and implements proper artificial lighting systems that promote productivity, sleep quality, and overall visual comfort.
  5. Movement: Encourages physical activity and reduces sedentary behaviors by incorporating design elements that promote movement, fitness, and active living.
  6. Thermal Comfort: Ensures optimal indoor temperatures and humidity levels, considering individual preferences, to create a comfortable environment that enhances productivity and well-being.
  7. Sound: Addresses acoustics and noise control, creating spaces that minimize noise disruptions and promote a positive auditory experience.
  8. Materials: Focuses on reducing exposure to hazardous materials and promoting sustainable, non-toxic building materials, furnishings, and finishes.
  9. Mind: Supports mental and emotional well-being by providing relaxation and stress reduction spaces, incorporating biophilic design elements, and fostering community.
  10. Community: Encourages social interaction, civic engagement, and access to essential services while promoting inclusivity, equity, and access to a range of public amenities.

In addition to these Concepts, WELL certification considers aspects like innovation, design flexibility, and adaptation to local contexts. By addressing these key areas, WELL aims to create healthier, more productive, and sustainable spaces that enhance the overall well-being of 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 construction and maintenance records 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 in place and monitored continuously.

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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 primarily 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. 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. Initially constructed in 1913, the structure presented particular difficulties for the design team, COOKFOX, including noise and thermal comfort issues. 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 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 must evaluate and identify any areas that require upgrading following the certification guidelines. Next, you must implement a strategy to solve these issues, including physically improving the structure or introducing new operational policies and procedures. You must also 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 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 reviewing documentation, observations of building systems and features, and performance testing.
  1. Review and verification: A WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) reviews and verifies the report after the on-site assessment.
  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.

Integrating WELL Certification with Other Green Building Certifications

While WELL Certification focuses on human health and well-being within the built environment, other green building certifications, such as LEED, BREEAM, and Green Star, primarily target environmental sustainability and resource efficiency.

Integrating WELL certification with these other green building certifications can create holistic, high-performance buildings that provide occupants with a healthy, comfortable, and sustainable environment.

Synergies between WELL Certification and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed LEED, one of the most widely recognized green building certification systems worldwide. LEED emphasizes energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable materials, indoor environmental quality, and site selection, among other criteria.

Integrating WELL and LEED certifications can lead to buildings that excel in environmental sustainability and human well-being. Many strategies and features can be applied to meet certification requirements simultaneously, such as using low-emitting materials, enhancing indoor air quality, and incorporating daylighting strategies.

Synergies between WELL Certification and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)

Originating in the United Kingdom, BREEAM is another globally recognized green building certification system. BREEAM addresses various sustainability aspects, including energy, water, materials, waste, pollution, ecology, health and well-being, and management processes.

Integrating WELL and BREEAM certifications like LEED can create buildings prioritizing human health and environmental sustainability. Areas of overlap between the two certifications include indoor air quality, access to natural light, and acoustic performance.

Synergies between WELL Certification and Green Star

Green Star, developed by the Green Building Council of Australia, is a comprehensive green building rating system that evaluates the sustainability of building projects across various categories, such as energy and emissions, water, materials, and indoor environment quality.

By combining Green Star and WELL certifications, project teams can ensure that their buildings minimize environmental impacts and promote occupant health and well-being. Synergies between the two certification systems include strategies for enhancing indoor environmental quality, such as improving air quality, acoustics, and access to natural light.

Synergies between WELL Certification and SITES (Sustainable SITES Initiative)

SITES, developed by the Sustainable SITES Initiative, is a certification system focused on sustainable landscape design and development. While not exclusively targeting buildings, SITES complements WELL and other green building certifications by addressing ecological and social aspects of outdoor spaces.

Integrating SITES with WELL can lead to projects promoting ecological sustainability and human well-being through strategies like incorporating biophilic design elements, providing access to green spaces, and managing stormwater runoff.

Achieving Synergies and Cost Savings in WELL Certification

When integrating WELL certification with other green building certifications, project teams can often identify synergies that result in more efficient and cost-effective solutions. For instance, using energy-efficient HVAC systems can contribute to energy conservation and improved indoor air quality, which is required for LEED and WELL certifications.

Similarly, selecting sustainable materials with low VOC emissions can satisfy LEED, BREEAM, Green Star, and WELL criteria.

By identifying these overlapping requirements and strategies, project teams can streamline the design and construction process, minimize costs, and maximize the benefits of pursuing multiple certifications. This integrated approach can lead to buildings that excel in environmental sustainability and human health and well-being.

Collaboration Among Professionals in WELL Certification

Effective collaboration among professionals, including architects, engineers, contractors, and sustainability consultants, is crucial to integrating WELL certification with other green building certifications.

This interdisciplinary teamwork helps ensure that all aspects of a project are aligned and that the implemented strategies achieve the desired outcomes for both human health and environmental sustainability.

Integrating WELL Certification with other green building certifications, such as LEED, BREEAM, Green Star, and SITES, allows project teams to create high-performance buildings prioritizing human health and environmental sustainability.

By identifying synergies between the certification systems, project teams can streamline the design and construction process, optimize building performance, and maximize the benefits of pursuing multiple certifications.

Collaborative efforts among professionals are key to successfully implementing integrated design strategies that address the comprehensive needs of occupants and the environment.

What are WELL Accredited Professionals (WELL AP)?

WELL Accredited Professionals (WELL AP) have demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the WELL Building Standard and its principles and a commitment to promoting health and well-being in the built environment.

These individuals play a vital role in the WELL certification process, assisting project teams in navigating the requirements and successfully implementing WELL strategies.

Becoming a WELL AP: To become a WELL AP, candidates must pass the WELL AP exam, which tests their knowledge of the WELL Building Standard, its Concepts, and the certification process. The exam covers the latest version of the WELL Building Standard (WELL v2).

Candidates typically prepare for the exam by studying the WELL Building Standard, attending workshops, participating in webinars, and engaging in self-directed learning.

Role of WELL APs in the Certification Process: WELL APs bring their expertise and experience to project teams, helping them to effectively integrate WELL principles into building design, construction, and operations.

The responsibilities of the WELL APs in WELL Certification include:

  1. Guiding project teams in understanding the WELL Building Standard and its requirements.
  2. Identifying appropriate WELL strategies and features for the specific project.
  3. Assisting in the documentation and submission process for WELL certification.
  4. Coordinating with other professionals, such as architects, engineers, and contractors, to meet WELL requirements.
  5. Ensuring performance verification and ongoing monitoring are properly conducted.

Benefits of Engaging a WELL AP in WELL Certification

Hiring a WELL AP can be invaluable to a project team pursuing WELL certification. Their expertise helps streamline the certification process, identify synergies with other green building certifications, and optimize building performance.

By working with a WELL AP, project teams can more effectively create spaces that enhance occupant health, well-being, and productivity while meeting the rigorous requirements of the WELL Building Standard.

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 contact 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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