WELL, Now: How WELL’s Health-Safety Rating System Provides a Safer Path Back to Work

Everyone in our industry has a sense of how people are affected by the built environments they work, receive care, and live in every day. Buildings, as it turns out, have a significant impact on our overall wellbeing. If not to the good, then to the detriment. The wellness-compromised among us need evidence-based designs that promote healing and support mental health, and the rest of us benefit from them, too. As a WELL Accredited Professional, my passion for the opportunities presented in the WELL Building Standard combine my belief in data-supported design with my commitment to creating spaces that make a positive difference in people’s lives.

The WELL Building Standard

The WELL Building Standard is a detailed roadmap for organizations to deliver thoughtful, intentional spaces that enhance human health. The International Well Building Institute has spent years chasing down, cataloging, and collaborating to expand and apply research that quantifies the physiological effects of a huge range of physical environment features, operations, and policies. WELL certification for a building is achieved by meeting a set of preconditions and optimizations in ten distinct health concepts. Through design, construction, and occupancy, WELL outlines the steps to meet and verify these concepts that not only support health and wellness but create environments that help people thrive.

WELL Health-Safety Rating

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, awareness and wariness of building safety skyrocketed. In response to this crisis, the WELL Health-Safety Rating System was developed to provide a lower barrier threshold to improve a space’s overall health impact. Created over the course of 2020 and launched with media fanfare and celebrity spokespeople, it omits the capital improvement and physical design features of WELL in order to facilitate rapid adoption.

WELL Health-Safety focuses on maximizing operational and management improvements. For example, under WELL Health-Safety, HVAC systems must be assessed and improved to increase outdoor air intake and control humidity. This can be accomplished through controls modifications, replacing filters or even making upgrades within the system. In contrast, a full WELL certification may require HVAC replacement or much more significant upgrades.

The “Slow Hunch”

WELL feels like the culmination of a “slow hunch.” As Steven Johnson put it in Where Good Ideas Come From, “world-changing ideas generally evolve over time as slow hunches rather than sudden breakthroughs.” Architects and engineers have long understood how impactful our built environment is and many are called to improve the spaces where we live, work and play. Now, backed by this body of evidence, research, and new data feedback from WELL certified buildings, we can confirm the validity of this hunch as it crests the tipping point. Working to move forward safely out of this pandemic together, we’re now armed in this conversation with robust data and a surging demand for healthier buildings.

To learn more about both the WELL Building Certification and the WELL Health-Safety Rating, I invite you to click the links below. Please reach out if you have any questions about how WELL could be useful to you.

WELL Building Standard

WELL Health-Safety Rating