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What's New with WELL?

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Created by the International WELL Building Institute, the WELL Building Certification was launched in 2013 as a roadmap for designing and operating healthy spaces and buildings. WELL is backed by robust research, with information from scientists, doctors and professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction trades. Those familiar with WELL know there are 10 main concepts with 108 features. The concepts are air, thermal comfort, light, community, mind, movement, water, sound, materials and nourishment. Through the WELL Building Standard, projects can earn points based on the number of performance-based features incorporated within the building. A project can earn Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certification, indicating an organization’s commitment to supporting the health and well-being of its occupants. What those familiar with WELL may not know, and applicable to healthcare projects, are the following new developments:

New + updated WELL ratings

The WELL Health-Safety Rating was created in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This rating applies WELL strategies to COVID-19 prevention, preparedness, resilience and recovery through facility operations and management strategies. Achieving a WELL Health-Safety Rating consists of meeting 15 of the 21 features, all of which are a subset of features adapted from the WELL Building Standard noted earlier. This rating is focused on six main health and safety themes that can be implemented immediately to protect building occupants from acute threats, as well as long-term strategies to mitigate potential health risks in the future. A WELL Health-Safety Rating, renewed annually, can be achieved as an independent, standalone designation or a milestone on the path to WELL certification. Prominent features in this rating include procedures for cleaning and sanitization, emergency preparedness programs, air and water quality management, health benefits resources and strategies for stakeholder engagement and clear communication to support health literacy. Healthcare organizations with a WELL Health-Safety seal signify to staff, visitors and patients a prioritization of occupant health and safety. Users of the space can have confidence that an organization is taking the necessary steps and strategies to prepare and respond to any potential threats, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WELL Performance Rating is a new rating released in February 2022 focused on measuring and tracking high performance metrics and data. Similar to the Health-Safety Rating, the Performance Rating requires participants to meet 21 of 30 features from the WELL Building Standard. These are features that focus on seven main building performance themes: indoor air quality, water quality management, lighting measurements, thermal conditions, acoustic performance, environmental monitoring and occupant experience. 

Through onsite testing or sensor technology, WELL Performance buildings can compare their performance to global benchmarks, gather intelligent data and make informed business decisions relating to the health and well-being of occupants.

Coming soon is the WELL Equity Rating, looking at how to address and incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion within health and wellness strategies. Specific details on how many features must be met have not yet been released. This rating will focus on seven main equitable features: mental health support, health services and benefits, stress management, connections to nature, diversity and inclusion, new mother and new parent support and community and civic engagement.

WELL at scale

WELL at scale is ideal for organizations with at least five locations looking to prioritize health and well-being across their real estate portfolio. This new program acts as a “subscription service,” offering a cost-effective and efficient platform to implement WELL across multiple properties.

Under WELL at scale, teams may submit WELL features for review for incremental improvement, receive benchmarking of performance, and/or achieve WELL certification and WELL ratings for the subscribed locations.

Acting as an organizational framework, WELL at scale provides a unified and  efficient approach for any organization, allowing consistent and scalable WELL certifications for as many locations as desired. Eligible subscriptions can also receive a WELL Score for the entire organization, showcasing commitment to the well-being of staff, visitors and community. 

Do labels matter?

A WELL-certified project creates visibility and recognition of a company’s investment in its people and can be perceived by the community, occupants or stakeholders as a competitive advantage.

Additionally, high-performing buildings that have met rigorous, third-party, green building standards, such as the WELL Building Standard, are a brand and marketing asset. With a growing focus on healthier workplaces, a WEL-certified building prioritizes the health and wellness of the people working within the space, leading to increases in productivity and employee retention.

And if wondering, “Is going through the effort of getting WELL certified worth it?” My obvious and short answer is “yes.” While you could implement many of the features on their own, I would like to emphasize that labels do, in fact, matter. A WELL seal or plaque reflects and communicates a healthcare organization’s commitment to creating a culture of well-being and an investment in its people.

This article originally published in Medical Construction & Design Sept/Oct 2022 Issue.

Michelle DuPont, AIA, WELL AP
Project Manager

Michelle DuPont, AIA, WELL AP, is a Project Manager with EUA. Michelle works with the Healthcare Environments Studio and works out of the Madison office.

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