3 WELL Strategies Focused on Existing Buildings
As health and wellness gains momentum, the International WELL Building Institute is pivoting to focus on existing buildings. Check out these three options.
As sustainability continues to become more mainstream, the rallying cry among advocates for green building and operations is that there are no “green” buildings and “regular” buildings; there are just buildings. The idea is that technology, expertise, operational strategies, and simply the prevailing best practices have advanced to the point that sustainability is inextricably linked with facility management. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has had a lot to do with this shift, as it’s codified sustainability and given the entire industry a standard to strive for.
Proponents of health and wellness strategies in buildings hope for this same progression — that sooner rather than later, focusing on building strategies that prioritize the health and wellness of building occupants will also not be seen as an add-on, but rather just how business is done. The WELL rating system, like LEED, has had much to do with how health and wellness strategies have been adopted so far. As of August 2022, more than 4 billion square feet of space had received a WELL certification. The rating system has expanded in recent months to include more options for existing buildings and operational strategies. Facility managers have more strategies than ever before they can apply to their unique situations.
Here is what you need to know about three of those standards.
WELL Health-Safety Rating
In June 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave eased for a bit before the brutal second wave descended, IWBI released a new version of its rating system specifically for existing buildings, a first for the organization.
The rating system is called WELL Health-Safety Rating. The system aimed to ensure not just the health and wellness of buildings occupants, but also safety. The system offers five categories of strategies (plus another for innovation) for facility managers to help mitigate the spread of viruses, keep buildings clean and safe, and help facility managers develop plans for emergency preparedness and recovery.
“WELL Health-Safety Rating is a centralized source for policies and protocols to protect against acute health safety issues,” said Jessica Cooper, IWBI’s chief commercial officer at the time of the rating system’s release. “The rating system leverages insights from leading industry associations and recommendations for how to respond.”
WELL Health-Safety Rating is scientifically rigorous, having been developed by more than 600 scientists, practitioners, and other experts. The rating system took off quickly with more than 1 billion square feet certified in its first year. A marketing campaign featuring celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Michael B. Johnson, Serena Williams, and Robert DeNiro has helped continue that momentum. Building occupants and visitors have learned to look for the WELL Health-Safety Rating seal as a way to know that that building has taken demonstrable and measurable strategies to protect them and keep them safe and heathy.
WELL Performance Rating
One of the criticisms of any rating system is that a one-time certification is a snapshot in time. Maybe facility managers do the strategies once, and then that’s it. It’s like reading a restaurant review from 10 years ago and expecting it to still be applicable for the current dining experience.
The WELL Performance Rating system solves this issue by providing facility managers with a suite of performance-related strategies that must be measured and reported on an ongoing, perpetual basis. To achieve the certification, facility managers must achieve 21 of the 33 performance metrics, including air and water quality, occupant comfort, acoustics, lighting, and more. These standards and strategies are drawn from IWBI’s signature WELL Building Standard.
The rating system officially launched in April 2022.
“The WELL Performance Rating puts us on an accelerated path to make buildings smarter for human health, unlocking the use of new technologies and more intelligent approaches to improve and enhance well-being and performance,” said Rachel Hodgdon, President and CEO, IWBI, when the rating system launched. “Thanks to the contributions of our collaborators from across the globe, the rating will connect building performance with the experience of the people inside, allowing organizations to make actionable what was once invisible through data and occupant insights.”
WELL at Scale
For high-level facility executives managing a portfolio of buildings across cities and states, IWBI offers WELL at Scale – a suite of strategies that focus on health and wellness over multiple buildings. Users have access to unlimited WELL certifications, as well as a suite of ESG tools and marketing support.
One of the benefits of WELL at Scale is that it allows facility managers to identify, measure, and analyze particular health and wellness metrics and then benchmark those metrics against buildings in an organization’s own portfolio. This robust data set can be hugely beneficial in improving outcomes. Health and wellness strategies, generally speaking, aren’t often as easy to measure as, say, energy efficiency. So, WELL at Scale gives tools to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) like indoor environmental quality and occupant well-being and satisfaction.
Greg Zimmerman is senior contributor editor for the facility group, which include FacilitiesNet.com and Building Operating Management magazine. He has more than 18 years’ experience writing about facility issues.